Are you considering Newfoundland travel and wanting to partake of some of the traditions of "the rock"? What a better way to experience one of the most popular age old traditions than to plan your Newfoundland travel during the Christmas season to attend the annual Mummer Festival or, better still, to become a mummer, yourself. But first, what is a mummer?
Newfoundland is jam packed with excitement during the Christmas season as these four words resonate loud and clear for all to hear: "Any mummers 'lowed in"? Dating back to the 19th century the once vibrant practice of mummering, performed through the twelve days of Christmas, had all but disappeared in Newfoundland due to government prohibitions enforced in response to some dark activities by mummers.
However, perhaps due to the release of Simini's "Mummer's Song" in 1983, mummering is now experiencing a huge return in popularity. For those who don't yet know who a mummer is, the answer is simple: It could be you, me, your best friend, your boss, your children, or anybody at all. What is mummering, you ask: To me, it's a fun Christmas tradition that is all about people, fun, and community.
Mummering in Newfoundland traditionally involved people dressing in disguise and travelling from home to home in the community to celebrate Christmas festivities. After entering each home, the mummers would entertain the hosts with song and dance, recitation, and joke telling in exchange for food and drink.
Some mummers would play musical instruments such as the ugly stick. These hand crafted instruments, uniquely decorated from discarded household products, have beer caps or other noise makers secured along their length to produce sound. These fun gadgets can be played by people of all ages and requires no advanced musical abilities.
Throughout the mummer's visit into neighborhood homes, the hosts would try to guess their identity by questioning, or poking, them (the poking to determine if the mummer had applied layers of padding, which was a common practice). The mummer would try to disguise their voice so as not to be recognized and to keep the game alive.
If a mummer was correctly identified, he/she would remove their disguise. Those not identified would keep their disguise in place and the game would continue through the remaining mummers.
At the end of the visit, the mummers would thank the hosts for their hospitality before moving onto the another house.
These next several photos show some of the disguises that mummers wear. There is no right or wrong way to dress as a mummer and it is always fun to look at the individual styles.
There is a mummers festival that is held in St. John's, Newfoundland each year. As a sign of change, the mummers festival is, in fact, endorsed by the historic society of Newfoundland and Labrador. The number of participants in the mummer festival increases exponentially yearly.
The following photographs were taken from the mummers festival that was held at Bowring Park on December 11 '21.
Whether your style of choice is wearing a lamp shade, sporting long rubber boots, wearing your under garments over your clothes, or parading the street in pajamas, all are welcome at the mummers festival in Newfoundland.
Some participants prefer to mirror the tradition of the "ribbon fools" and "hobby horse" which were all prominent in different communities of Newfoundland in the past. The Mari Lwyd hobby horse, shown in green in the forefront, is a beautiful rendition of the wassailing creature which, I believe, originated in Wales.
Whether a spectator or participant, I'm sure you would agree that mummers festivities are a fun time and an interesting part of Newfoundland culture. Don't miss the opportunity to attend one of the mummering parades if you find yourself in Newfoundland pre-Christmas. We welcome you to pack your best apron, bra, and old rubber boots and march along! Newfoundland mummering - a lovely community experience!
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