Friday, December 23, 2011

Mummering: What's Old is New

Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Upon moving here to Newfoundland in 2006 I quickly observed that 'The Rock' was unlike any other location in Canada. A little-known Christmas tradition that has gained a resurgence in popularity in recent years is mummering.

It is believed that mummering found its way to Newfoundland from England nearly 200 years ago. The tradition involves a group of people disguising themselves in costumes and visiting homes within their community. They will entertain their hosts by singing and dancing and perhaps telling jokes. The hosts will supply them with snacks and 'liquid refreshments' and try to guess the identities of the visitors. This is not easy as everyone has their faces covered and men are often disguised as women and women as men. This tradition was made popular in "The Mummers Song" by Newfoundland folk duo Simani in 1982. Play the 3 1/2 minute video, first aired on the CBC program 'Land and Sea',  for a feel for what a visit from mummers was like for those living 'round the bay'.

And...below THIS is a link to a two minute video from last Saturday's Mummer's Parade here is St. John's.

The mummering tradition has been noticed by the US satirical new organization The Onion and featured/lampooned in a recent video. You can see that two minuted video below.

Traveling Group Of Medieval Mummers Is America's Top Pick For Holiday Entertainment

So there you have it...all you wanted to know about mummering. And a bit more. Holiday wishes to you all...whatever it is you may be celebrating this time of the year. And finally a feel-good story...the little puffin who found his way home. In a case of 'misdirection', a 6 month old puffin somehow got lost and flew from the Atlantic Ocean to downtown Montreal (mon dieu!). He was flown back (courtesy of Air Canada) to St. John's last night and will spend a couple of weeks R&R at a bird sanctuary before being released back into the 'wilds'. Now there's a happy ending. You can link to that story here.

*sniffs and wipes tear from eye*


Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

I loved that folk song so much that I went back to my blog and posted a link to it.

What a wonderful, wonderful video that is! Pasted a big wide smile on my face; makes me wish I was a Newfoundlander, for sure.

Thanks so much, Alan. We have a Mummer ornament on the tree we bought while we were visiting and the Mummer figurine you and Laurita bought us holds a special place in our living room. I always think of our trip, and you wonderful friends, every time I see it.

Happiest of holidays to you and V and "the boy." Oh, and Jet, of course. Merry Christmas and Happy Mummering to all!

A Daft Scots Lass said...

Never heard of this before! How interesting.

Have a very Merry Christmas

Laurita said...

I love mummering. I'm hoping to get some in while I'm home during the holidays. It's always a good time.

This is a great post. Put me right in the mood for a cup of tea and a bit of fruitcake. :)

Gigi said...

I've never heard of it either - but it was a catchy tune. Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, or whatever. And best wishes for you and yours in the coming year.

Pearl said...

Strange and wonderful.

Wonder if there's been any mummery in Minneapolis...


Alan W. Davidson said...

Cathy- You're welcome. You know that you're welcome to visit anytime. Wish you were Newfoundlanders?...then you guys will have to 'retire' here and join the club (er, not to say that I'm retired or anything like that).

Gillian- Yeah, it's pretty much restricted to here. This island did not become part of Canada until 1949 and many of its unique qualities have remained here due to its isolation.

Laurita- I'm going to want to see a photo of you and your crowd mummering...

Gigi- Christmas/holiday greetings to you, hubby and MC as well.

Pearl- If there hasn't been any mummering there, you'll have to start it up as a tradition (however, warn the cops first in case the home owners wrongly consider it a home invasion...)

Entre Nous said...

Oh I adore this, and it's one of the reason I save my favorite blogs for mid=nights reading while the wind howls and the cats all stare at me like the world is gonna end....yesturday.... :}