The Weirdest Christmas Tradition Ever

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?

P.S. I won

P.S. I won

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.

  • December 15 2009

    Ummm… this sounds amazing! I want to bring this tradition to texas, but I need your help!!

  • December 16 2009

    hahaha and I thought us aussie’s had some weird traditions. I think that ones takes the cake. Mind you if I was up Newfoundland way this xmas I’d be front and center leading the charge :)

  • December 16 2009

    What? You’re not mummering yourself? :o)

  • December 16 2009

    I’m diggin’ granny’s apron, might have to make one of those! I’m sad that all my time in Newfoundland I didn’t witness any mummers first hand. Guess I’ll just have to move back sometime eh? hehe

  • December 16 2009

    ummm that sounds like so much fun!! I need to visit newfoundland at some point and experience this.

  • December 16 2009

    That sounds awesome! What a nutty place.

  • December 16 2009

    The world you live in fascinates me! Someday I’ll come visit :)

  • December 16 2009

    What a crazy tradition. I’m with Neha-I think I need to come examine this fascinating world of yours someday!

  • December 16 2009

    haha effin’ Newfoundland. That’s awesome! Closest thing we have to a Christmas tradition in Saskatchewan is freezing to death. So cool though. Some friends in the Netherlands said they have a father’s day tradition similar to this. Apparently it’s like trick or treat for adults. You just walk from house to house drinking your face off.

    These sound like traditions I should enforce.Hmm… maybe i’ll start by getting belligerant and go Mummer up to the hotties living in 403 and 404… I could see that ending with a call to the police. ha

    Rockin’ post Candice. Keep up the Newfyness

  • December 16 2009

    Mummers! I have never, ever heard of such a thing. Newfoundland sounds wonderfully quirky!

  • December 16 2009

    I love this. It just shows how amazingly diverse Canada is… I can’t imagine anything like that happening in Alberta.

  • December 18 2009

    Umm. I clearly grew up on the wrong side of Canada! How cool is that.

  • December 18 2009

    We have “Mummers” too, except they’re called house robbers and instead of knocking on the door, they wear ski masks and break inside.

    Not as nice as yours.

  • December 18 2009

    A parade? I love parades. Except no clowns. Or magic.

  • December 19 2009

    You should see the Mummers Parade in Philly on New Year’s Day. If you ever want to see a bunch of fat, drunk Italian guys in makeup and shiny outfits in a parade check out Broad Street in Philadelphia on Jamuary 1st.

  • December 20 2009

    Hahaha! I’ve never heard of this but it sounds like a blast, like some Monty Python thing. I’d much rather have a gang of drunken dudes wearing top hats and bras, singing and dancing jigs at my home than boring ol’ Christmas carolers. Great post!

  • December 20 2009

    @CJ: Start Mummering, you Texans are crazy enough!

    @Chris: You’re invited anytime, my boy!

    @Nashe: Unfortunately, no. But I freaking regret it.

    @Alana: We should have made our New Years fest a mummer one, no pressure to dress up! And yes, totally make an apron.

    @Meg: You MUST!

    @Amiee: Seriously, seriously nutty.

    @Neha: I think it’s in your best interest to do so!

    @Nancy: Hehehe, Matador party chez moi?

    @Corbin: Hahahaha, trick-or-treating for adults, I love it. What about mothers?

    @Sabina: You’d love it!

    @Alouise: I know, eh? I never realized how diverse Canada is until I left NL, seriously.

    @Carlo: You can start the tradition on the other side!

    @J: Hahahahaha, we have a few of those too.

    @Linlah: There are no clowns, but definitely some magic. /cheese

    @Kyle: I seriously just heard about it the other day, I REALLY need to go there.

    @Cathey: Thanks, Cathey! I agree, much better than caroling!

  • December 21 2009

    I love it! I never knew about this tradition. I seriously have to get myself to Newfoundland. It seems like the province that loves to have the best time in all of Canada!

    • December 29 2009

      You definitely have to come visit! Although I’d suggest the summer, when walkinga round town isn’t life-threatening.

  • December 23 2009

    ahahah I had never heard of mummering before this blog post…very interesting tradition!

    • December 29 2009

      Seems like not too many people have! Thanks for dropping by. :)

  • December 23 2009

    Candice, for the first time ever, I want to go to Canada. Thanks for sharing.

    • December 29 2009

      Sarah, you don’t know how happy that makes me!

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