We all have our own personal, sometimes bizarre Christmas or holiday traditions. Right now I’m blogging while sitting around the table with my roommates, drinking a Texas Mickey of Crown Royal whiskey and playing Scrabble. Yeah, I’m that good. See?
In Newfoundland, we also have “mummering,” or “jannying.”
(Apparently mummering and jannying has its roots in ancient Roman history. See how cultured we are?)
Here’s the premise: a group of men and women dress up in ridiculous fashion and go from home to home spreading cheer and Christmas drunken debauchery (much the same as regular drunken debauchery, except with Screech and Golden Wedding). Mummers are disguised. They wear ski masks, bras on the outside of clothes, socks on hands, toques, pillows stuffed in shirts, and just about anything that will hide a person’s figure. Mummers will also act differently and talk differently to hide their identity.
The gang of mummers travel around the community on foot, knocking on doors of homes and hollering, “Any mummers ‘lowed in?” If indeed they are ‘lowed in, the patrons will guess who is behind the gaudy costumes, and then riotous kitchen parties break out with fiddle music, booze galore and dancing jigs.
In other words, Newfoundlanders love a party.
As you can imagine, there are some issues with allowing a hoard of rowdy, disfigured strangers into your home. The biggest one being who the hell lets masked strangers into their home? Unfortunately, the tradition has died down over the years as people (reasonably) fear the worst.
From someone who grew up in rural Newfoundland, mummering is the perfect example of rural community spirit. A man comes to your house dressed as a woman, chattering like someone has a vice grip on his testicles, walking with a limp, and you’re still able to figure out his true identity. Thus is the nature of a small town — you’re uncomfortably close to everyone.
So I was stoked to hear the Heritage Festival of Newfoundland and Labrador is hosting its First Annual Folklike Festival, which ends on December 20th with a Mummers Parade. Mummers! Can you think of a more perfect place to hook up? I’ll be out there as a spectator taking some photos of the event, so I’ll be able to give you a better example of the sheer ridiculousness of Newfoundland soon.
I love this province.
Here’s Simani’s famous video, “The Mummer Song.” Pretty good idea of what goes down.