Saturday, December 23, 2006

Mummers



David Blackwood's image of three mummers is wonderful. It evokes images of rural Newfoundland in past and present.

Listen to a clip from Simini's Any Mummers 'Lowed In?' There is a love/hate relationship with this song in Newfoundland but it still lives on and is associated with Christmas and will be for years to come.

From the Mummering in Newfoundland page:

Sometime during the twelve days of Christmas, usually on the night of the "Old Twelfth", People would disguise themselves with old articles of clothing and visit the homes of their friends and neighbours. They would even cover their faces with a hood, scarf, mask or pillowcase to keep their identity hidden. Men would sometimes dress as women and women as men. They would go from house to house. They usually carried their own musical instruments to play, sing and dance in every house they visited. The host and hostess of these 'mummers parties' would serve a small lunch of Christmas cake with a glass of syrup or blueberry or dogberry wine. All mummers usually drink a Christmas "grog" before they leave each house. (A grog is a drink of an alcoholic beverage such as rum or whiskey.)

When mummers visit everyone in the house starts playing a guessing game. They try to guess the identity of each mummer. As each one is identified they uncover their faces, but if their true identity is not guessed they do not have to unmask.

For a time the old tradition of "Mummering", or "Jannying" as it is sometimes called, seemed to fade, especially in the larger centers of Newfoundland. But in recent years, thanks to the popular musical duo, Simini, who wrote and recorded "The Mummer's Song" in 1982, mummering has been revived. It is just as prevalent and popular as it was years ago and young and old look forward to dressing up this Christmas, knocking on a friend's door and calling out "ANY MUMMERS ALLOWED IN?"

The roots of mummering go back to England and the earliest recorded performance of it in Newfoundland was 1819. Its not as popular as it once was, with people more hesitant to open their doors to people, especially those who are in disguise. But it does continue in small pockets and lives in David Blackwood's prints.

3 comments:

Beverly said...

Jeanette,
How I love your blog! I always learn something new and find the "mummers" very interesting" Have you ever been to one of these parties? I imagine it would be great fun!

Jeanette Jobson said...

Yes, I've been to a few parties where mummers arrived. It is good fun, I'm sure you'd enjoy it.

Katherine said...

Lovely post Jeanette - thank you!