A Mummer is a disguised and costumed merrymaker during Christmas. The tradition of Mummering was brought to NL by British and Irish settlers. The Mummers disguise themselves by wearing old clothing belonging to someone else. Women often used men’s clothing and vice-versa. Mummers cover their faces with a flour sack, pillow slip or a lamp shade and go from house to house in their community. When the householder responds to the mummers’ tapping on the door, the visitors using disguised voices ask, “Any mummers ‘lowed in?”
If they are welcomed in, they usually entertain their hosts with humorous antics, dancing and the musical instruments they carry, very often an ugly stick, a fiddle and an accordion. Some hosts offer drinks and some serve cake or other sweets. Part of the fun is guessing who is under the outlandish costumes. When correctly identified, the mummers remove their face covering.
In Petty Harbour, Mummering, from the Feast of St. Stephen on December 26 to the Old Twelfth Day on January 6, continued into the 1960’s. Our Mummers are lovingly designed and created by NL artisans. Each mummer is inspired by traditional NL Mummering.
Visitor’s Tip: The Mummers Festival and Mummers Parade is held annually in St. John’s during the first two weeks of December. Learn more at mummersfestival.ca
Photo Credit: Sandy Spurrell