Pantomime is a British form of theatrical entertainment derived from the harlequinade (which itself originated in Italian commedia dell'arte), primarily for children and associated with Christmas. It is based on the dramatization of a fairy tale or nursery story, and includes songs and topical jokes, buffoonery and slapstick. It also includes standard characters such as a pantomime dame played by a man, a principal boy played by a woman, and a pantomime animal (e.g. a horse, cat or goose) played by actors dressed in a comic costume, with some regional variations. The children are encouraged to join in the songs, to shout out to the actors, and to give warning when the bad characters appear, although the good characters pretend not to believe them: "I haven't seen the villain, do you know where he is, children?" "Behind you !" "Oh no he isn't!" "Oh yes he is !". Pantomimes remain a feature of the Christmas season in Britain.
(adapted from The Oxford English Reference Dictionary and the Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture)