Author's Note: After posting this I was tweeted a link to the Mummers Festival webpage. This not-for-profit group is working to keep Jannying alive in Newfoundland. If you are in the St. John's Newfoundland area, there are a series of events including a Mummer's Parade on December 17. I truly wish I was there to participate and thank them for keeping the tradition alive. T'anks Bys
"Any Mummers 'llowed in?"
I am from Newfoundland. Family members are still there and I left in 1995 to attend University in Ontario. While growing up there in the late 70's and early 80's, we still practiced Mummering. There may still be a very small group of people that dress up to Janny and go to their neighbour's homes. But I haven't heard of anyone doing this for 15 years or more in my own home town.
Mummering involved a group of people, disguised in ridiculous attire, who called on local homes during the Christmas season. These Mummers or Jennies (Jannies), as they called themselves, dressed in bright coloured clothing and wore masks when available or painted their faces black. They also distorted their voices to avoid being easily recognized. After being invited inside a house, festivities ensued where food and drink were offered to the visitors who acted the fool and sang and danced while the hosts attempted to identify them. Once a person's identity was correctly determined, it was customary for the mummer to remove his or her mask. The traditional custom of mummering still occurs in many regions of the province today.
The Mummers Song by Simani.
This song brings tears to my eyes. First of all because it reminds me of Christmas past. I can close my eyes and hear my grandfather singing this song (and many others) and playing his spoons. I remember Mummering my grandparents home as a young teen. This was a fun form of entertainment in a province that experiences harsh winters and lacked many forms of recreational outlets that other places offer. We didn't have any BIG BOX stores to loiter in, people rarely locked their doors, neighbours were in and out of each others homes on a daily basis and considered extended family. My family had one small TV with 2 channels, people rolled down their windows to chat at passing motorists while approaching stop signs, etc. I could go on and on about the simpler days gone by but this post is intended to reminisce about the fun I had during Christmas time in Newfoundland.
Are there any Christmas traditions that you miss from your own Childhood?
*Video extracted from youtube.com **Quote borrowed from Performing Arts: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage.