Monday, December 30, 2013

The Story of "Mummers"

Hanna from Harbour Main and Henry from Holyrood
Handcrafted by Laddio Crafts - Newfoundland & Labrador

Aunt Agnes once shared with me, that what she missed the most when she moved to the "States" were the Christmas Traditions of back home, in Newfoundland.  She explained that during the Christmas Season, they would get dressed up using whatever they had around the house, disguising themselves the best they could, for when they went out visiting the neighbors.  I listened and nodded my head as she told me this story. 

The neighbors, would try to guess who the special visitors were as they played instruments, sang songs and danced on their kitchen floors, their hoods would not come off until they guessed right. After much merriment,  the visitors would be given fruitcake, cookies and treats and occasional sips of port wine! Aunt Agnes added, "They would laugh and laugh all the way home!. 

I remember this story well, it was just a few years ago that Aunt Agnes had shared it with me, but it was not until I was home to Newfoundland this past summer did I truly come to understand the tradition she was telling me about. I was visiting my cousin's family and I saw over in the corner, on the dining room buffet, a pair of colorful figurines holding instruments with hoods covering their faces. They sparked my curiosity! "Oh those are Mummers!" I was informed.  "Mummers?" I questioned. "Haven't you heard of Mummers before?" My reply was "No!" at first, but as I listened to the story of the Mummers I soon realized that this was the tradition Aunt Agnes had told me about, she just never used the term "Mummers" in her story!

I thought to myself, I never imagined that this is what Aunt Agnes meant by dressing up and going around to the neighbors houses! I laughed at the thought, and of the delight and fun they must of had during those cold snowy winter nights!

Christmas in rural Newfoundland can be a Christmas like no other.  The excitement of the season continues long after the presents have been opened and the turkey dinner eaten, for the Twelve Days of Christmas (from December 26 to January 6) is the time for mummering.

House visits like this have been part of the Newfoundland Christmas since at least the early 1800's, as settlers to the Island brought with them their many folk traditions from West Country England and Southern Ireland.  For those early settlers and their descendants, Christmas was the one time of the year when work was set aside and merrymaking took its place. [1]

Follow this link to hear "The Mummers Song" by Bud Davidge  

                                         Merry Christmas and Happy New Year  -  Elaine

[1] "The Mummer's Song" by Bud Davidge songwriter, Ian Wallace author/illustrator
             Kevin Major afterword

Note: Computer problems are now fixed, so I will be able to get caught up on my long overdue Blog Entries, sorry for the delay! Stay tuned!