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History of Mummering

2013 St John's Mummers Parade. By -, CC0,

Perhaps the most famous Christmas song in Newfoundland and Labrador is The Mummers Song.

While not as popular as it once was, mummering still exists in the province.

It is a Christmas-time house-visiting tradition. It is not Newfoundland specific, it is also practised in Ireland and parts of the United Kingdom.

Although it is unclear precisely when this tradition was brought to Newfoundland by the English and Irish, the earliest record dates back to 1819.

Also known as mumming or janneying, typically involves a group of friends or family who dress in disguise and visit homes within their community or neighbouring communities during the twelve days of Christmas.

If the mummers are welcomed into a house, they often do a variety of informal performances that may include dance, music, jokes, or recitations.

The hosts must guess the mummers' identities before offering them food or drink. They may poke and prod the mummers or ask them questions. To make this a challenge for the hosts, the mummers may stuff their costumes, cross-dress, or speak while inhaling.

Once the mummers have been identified, they remove their disguises, spend some social time with the hosts, and then travel as a group to the next home.


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