Mummering in Newfoundland

CNN reports that mummers are “making a comeback” in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Mummering originated in England and Ireland, and the earliest record of it in Newfoundland dates to 1819, according to the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage project. During Christmas season, people would disguise their identities using a mishmash of household items and travel door to door to neighbors’ homes. Neighbors would invite them in for impromptu parties with food and drinks, all while attempting to identify the masked visitors. Once an identity was determined, the mask came off.

In an effort to preserve this quirky part of Newfoundland’s culture, the first-ever Mummers Festival was born in 2009 and is now going into its eighth year. The annual festival consists of numerous community events and culminates in the Mummers Parade.

(Photos by Darren Calabrese. I love the rough, homemade look of these mumming costumes. No fancy latex sculpted demon masks like you see in Austria these days, no elaborate fur covered headdresses, just cloth and bells and maybe some papier mache. In many ways this has a creepier effect, more “Other”, than elaborate and professional designs.)

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