The Mummer’s Walk on the Great Northern Peninsula all started when two friends shared a conversation about their love for the tradition of mummering. The event was to be regionally focused, bringing together people from many communities to teach the younger generation a rural tradition cherished by those of our grandparents.
The first event started in Flower’s Cove (2010), then Anchor Point (2011), Savage Cove (2012), Green Island Cove (2013) and this year’s event will be in Sandy Cove. People will congregate at the Sandy Cove Lion’s Club anytime after 2 PM for the rig-up and the walk will begin at 2:30 PM. If past years are any indicator, it likely will be cold and may result in a shorter parade route. Festivities will continue after the walk at the Lion’s Club. This event is opened to all ages and everyone is invited to attend.
Let’s celebrate Mummering and make December 29th as the official day of the Mummer!
Live Rural NL,
Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA for The Straits-White Bay North
The 3rd Annual Mummer’s Walk was the most successful to date, seeing increasing numbers across all age ranges from the two walks held in Flower’s Cove and Anchor Point, respectively. A total of 40 mummers or jannies participated in this year’s walk, with a wide range of ages from toddler to adult. There were so many, not all could fit in the photos. We even picked up a couple during the parade.
At 3 PM the residents of the Straits congregated at the Savage Cove church basement and paraded around the community. The band of merry mummers waved at vehicles and those looking on from their windows. It was quite the sight!
There were big ones,
and small ones…
At the end, we all returned to the Church basement listened to the Mummer’s Song and other Christmas tunes. Everyone sat around enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, Purity syrup and other goodies. Special thanks to organizers Trudy C. and co-founder, Sabrina G. for continuing to ensure the mummer’s walk continues on the Great Northern Peninsula. As well, big thanks for all those who helped in any way and getting involved. It was great to see many families and youth interested in keeping a tradition that was so vibrant in rural Newfoundland & Labrador. Also, the Straits Food Sharing Association benefited from non-perishable food items.
We look forward to continued growth next year as the fourth annual will be set during the Christmas season. Please take the time this Christmas to go door to door, visit your friends and neighbours – find those old sheets, ugly sticks and pillow sacks. Happy jannying!
Live Rural NL –Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA The Straits-White Bay North
The tradition and spirit of mummering continues on the Great Northern Peninsula and we invite everyone to come join us for the 3rd Annual Mummer`s Walk to be held on December 28th, starting at 3:00 PM at the Savage Cove Church basement.
I`ve always loved the concept of mummering. Growing up it was referred more often to us as jannying, but the Simini song, “Any Mummer’s Allowed In?” has popularized the term “mummer”. When I was younger, my cousin and I dressed up as jannies. We would dress up all silly carrying a stick to fend off those who tried to unmask us. We would visit friends and neighbours and disguise our voices. They would offer us cake and drink and the guessing game would begin. If they named you correctly you have to reveal your face, if not, your identity were to always remain a mystery.
In 2010 after moving back to Newfoundland & Labrador from working in Western Canada, I had been conversing with another friend who had moved back and she had talked about too how much she loved mummering. She came up with the idea of a mummer’s walk and event that brings the communities together where we live and also encourage an annual mummering night in each community. In 2010, the 1st annual mummer’s parade was held in the administrative centre, Flower’s Cove. We decided to rotate the event in future years.
Last year, we moved the event to the Town of Anchor Point. It even brought some international mummer’s, two of my friends from Switzerland and Germany went mummering for the very first time. That evening we went around and visited friends and neighbours in the community in which I live. We had a band of merry mummers, there must have been a group of 7 or 8.
This year, I look forward to seeing mummer’s of all ages come out to Savage Cove. Tradition is so important to us all. Let’s not lose sight of this important aspect of our culture. I hope there will be lots of people in attendance for the 3rd Annual Mummer’s Parade.
Live Rural NL –Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA The Straits-White Bay North
The act of mummering actually comes from Rome, which is an awfully long way from Newfoundland and Labrador. The tradition was picked up in Great Britain, a tiny bit closer. It was adapted when some of the planters from Great Britain settled in Newfoundland, they brought the tradition of mummering with them.
At that time there were three types of mummering (or “jannying” or “mumming“). The oldest form was the parade. In St. John’s, Newfoundland‘s capital city, the Mummer’s Parade was a yearly event. This parade was not like our Santa Claus parades of today; it was very loud and rowdy, even to the point where people got hurt. In 1861, one hundred and fifty years ago, mummering was actually banned in Newfoundland because a man was killed by a group of mummers. Mummering, illegal?
Mummers also gave a performance visit. A group would go to someone’s house and put on a small play for him or her. The play always had a hero who was killed by a bad guy. Then a doctor would bring him back to life again. The actors in the play would ask for money before they left the house. This kind of visit stopped in Newfoundland and Labrador shortly before World War I; that’s more than 90 years ago.
The one kind of mummering activity that can still be found in Newfoundland and Labrador is the house visit. But years ago even this form of mummering was often violent and unpleasant. Mummers often carried “splits” or large sticks and fought with other groups of mummers or attacked innocent people. Horns, tails and skins from goats, sheep, caribou and seals were all used in costumes. They did a lot of damage to houses, wharves and fences. Many people were afraid of them.
Just under thirty years ago, in 1982, Bud Davidge and Sim Savoury released “The Mummer’s Song“. This silly song, written in true Newfoundland dialect, tells about a visit of the mummers who come in and dance. “Be careful the lamp and hold on to the stove. Don’t swing Granny hard ’cause you know that she’s old.” This catchy tune has probably caused more people to start mummering again. This time, however, most mummering is not violent, but fun. It is a really enjoyable way to visit your friends, and when they guess who you are, you invite them back to your house for a similar visit.
Sometime during the twelve days of Christmas, usually on the night of the “Old Twelfth”, People would disguise themselves with old articles of clothing and visit the homes of their friends and neighbors. They would even cover their faces with a hood, scarf, mask or pillowcase to keep their identity hidden. Men would sometimes dress as women and women as men. They would go from house to house. They usually carried their own musical instruments to play, singing and dancing in every house they visited. The host and hostess of these ‘parties’ would serve a small lunch of Christmas cake with a glass of syrup or blueberry or dogberry wine. All mummers usually drink a Christmas “grog” before they leave each house. (Grog-a drink of an alcoholic beverage such as rum or whiskey.) When mummers visit, everyone in the house starts playing a guessing game. They try to guess the identity of each mummer. As each one is identified they uncover their faces, but if their true identity is not guessed they do not have to unmask.
Although mummering has faded in large urban centers, with the exception of the re-introduction of the Mummer’s Parade held annually in St. Johns, the spirit of mummering continues in rural Newfoundland & Labrador. So when you’ve opened all your presents and you’ve eaten your turkey dinner, you probably feel that Christmas is over – here in Newfoundland and Labrador, the most easterly province in Can, the fun is just beginning, for the Twelve Days of Christmas (December 26 to January 6) is the time we’ll be mummering. You can watch for us, but you won’t know who we are!
There is still time to mummer, as tomorrow night is OLD CHRISTMAS NIGHT!
Live Rural NL – Christopher Mitchelmore
- A Brief History of Mummering… (liveruralnl.com)
- Calling all Mummers….Mummers Walk & Food Drive December 29, 2010 (liveruralnl.com)
- Mummering flourishes in N.L. homes (cbc.ca)
- Mummer’s Walk & Food Drive a Success! (liveruralnl.com)
- Our Beloved Purity Factories… (liveruralnl.com)