Many old towns have a tradition of mummers (strolling players) performing strange songs and dances on special days. The tradition in Richmond is particularly strange!
On Christmas Eve the poor old hoss (or t’owd ‘oss, or poor old horse) appears in the Market Place at about mid-day. He is a hobby-horse, with a real horse-skull on a pole as his head. He is accompanied by mummers in huntsman costumes, who sing his special song and bring him back to life with a blast on a hunting horn when he 'dies', accompanied by much merriment and mayhem.
The custom is recorded back to the seventeenth century, and probably has pagan origins. Seeing the poor old hoss is believed to bring good luck for the following year. It's a remarkable tradition, but one that really ought to come with a PG rating - so if you're with youngsters, be sure to have a consoling bar of chocolate handy for them. And don't let the horse pinch it...
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