The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Waits

WAITS, the king's minstrels, who in England and other countries used formerly to guard the streets at night and proclaim the hour. The name was afterward applied to the town's musicians, who, however, did not perform the duties of watchmen, and to private bands, when employed as serenaders. In modern times the waits are musicians who play during the night hours on the approach of the Christmas or New Year seasons, and call at the houses of the inhabitants for donations. While this custom exists to some extent in the United States, the term “waits” is not used here.