Newfoundland Travel Blog - Mummering: Christmas on "The Rock"

Updated: Jan 27

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. #mummers, #disguise, #Christmas, #winter, #tradition

Three mummers posing for a picture on the snowy sidewalk of Bowring Park, Newfoundland.
Mummers posing together at Bowring Park, Newfoundland, before the mummer parade.

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. #newfoundland, #twelvedaysofchristmass, #mummer, #mummering

Two mummers greeting each other next to a tree in a snowy field in advance of the Newfoundland's mummer festival.
These two mummers enjoy a chat while awaiting the start of the Mummer parade.

However, perhaps due to the release of Simini's "Mummer's Song" in 1983, mummering is now experiencing a huge return in popularity. #mummerssong

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. Read on ... #fun, #christmastradition, #communityfun

A group of mummers, cloaked in disguise and with faces concealed, wait on a snow-covered sidewalk for the mummer parade to begin.
A group of mummers gather together as they prepare to march in the mummer parade at Bowring Park.

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. #mummeringinnewfoundland, #christmasfestivities

A mummer, disguised in a red, plaid, onesie and a veil covering face is playing the ugly stick on a snow covered walkway.
Mummer playing a homemade ugly stick at the entrance to Bowring Park before the mummer parade.

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. #uglystick, #fun


Twin mummers disguised in onesies and wearing bras outside their clothing, dance on a snow covered sidewalk in Newfoundland.
Two twin mummers disguised in onesies and wearing bras outside their clothing, dance on a snow covered sidewalk.

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. #game, #mummer

Three people, wearing mummer disguise, standing in a snow covered field clap their hands and shake their music makers.
Three people in mummer disguise gather in a snow covered field clap their hands, and shake their music makers.

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. #neighbors, #neighborhood

This mummer stands alone in a snowy field, wearing layers of colorful clothing and a lace covering to conceal her face.
This mummer stands alone in a snowy field, wearing layers of colorful clothing and a lace covering to conceal her face.

At the end of the visit, the mummers would thank the hosts for their hospitality before moving onto the another house. #hospitality, #community. #communityexperience

These two mummers are wear clothing adorned with trademark Newfoundland items, one carrying a dummy on their shoulders.
Mummers wear clothing adorned with trademark Newfoundland items, one carrying a dummy on their shoulders.

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.

This Mummer, bells attached to her red housecoat and wearing odd colored mitts, waves and shakes her tambourine as she walks by.
Mummer, bells attached to her red housecoat and wearing odd colored mitts, waves and shakes her tambourine.

This mummer is wearing a boat-head disguise, has ribbons tied along the waist, and carries a salt beef bucket and an ugly stick.
This mummer wears a boat-head disguise, ribbons along the waist, and carries a salt beef bucket and an ugly stick.

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. #historicsociety, #mummersfestival, #stjohns, #newfoundland

The first of the mummers walking in the procession at the mummers parade carry the mummers festival banner.
The '21 mummers festival was held at Bowring Park on December 11.

The following photographs were taken from the mummers festival that was held at Bowring Park on December 11 '21. #mummering, #parade, #festivity, #bowringpark

Disguises at the mummer parade include lamps shades, facial lace coverings, layers of mismatched clothing, and much more.
People disguised in mummer clothing are marching in the mummer parade 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. #newfoundland, #festivity, #parade

The Mari Lywd hobby horse leads this procession of mummers along the streets of Bowring Park at the '21 mummer festival.
The Mari Lywd hobby horse leads this procession of mummers along the streets at the '21 mummer festival.

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. #hobbyhorse, #marilwyd, #wassailing

The hobby horse, mummers with underwear visible, and people in many other disguises form the procession of the mummer festival.
The hobby horse and mummers in disguise, including underwear outside clothing, march in the mummer festival.

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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