The twelve days of Christmas are still celebrated in Gaultois. From Christmas Day until 6 January or ‘Old Christmas Day’, this little village nestled in a cosy corner of the Bay D’spoir fjord is festooned with fairy lights and full of merriment and mischief.
Snow was on the ground until late Christmas Eve rewarding us with the longed for ‘White Christmas’ and we were invited to share hearty suppers and dinners – seafood chowder, turkey and plum pudding (made by Fran and enjoyed by many).
And then there were the “mummers, known as “Jannies” to some. Now for our Australian folk there needs to be some explanation of this unique form of entertainment in midwinter. Mummering is an ancient Celtic tradition that was brought over by the early settlers from the West Country of England and has survived 400 years here in the outports and is enjoying a current resurgence in the cities and towns of Newfoundland.
People dress up in disguises using ‘false faces’ or masks and then go house to house asking to enter with loud knocks and: “Any mummers ‘lowed in?” The people in the house are to guess who the person in disguise is and then offer them some refreshments. Sometimes there may be music, singing and even dancing in the kitchen. Mummers visit in the middle of winter, just past the solstice, and during the Twelve Days of Christmas and includes people of all ages. With their body shapes distorted by pillows, faces obscured by masks as simple as a pillow case with holes for eyes, and voice disguised by change of tone…it is hilarious trying to guess the identity. We have been visited on three separate nights by three different groups and it is only the sixth night of Christmas. We wonder what New Year’s Eve may hold in store….
“Some have argued that the word “mummer” itself is derived from a word meaning “mask”. The German mumme means “mask” or maker while vermommen in Dutch means a disguise. …Encyclopaedia Britannica suggest a possible connection with the Greek mommo or mormo, and suggest that “Mormo was probably and underworld goddess, resembling the ogress who gave her name to the Perchten runners, Germand mask mummers who paraded on Twelfth-night.” Ref: ‘Any Mummers ‘Lowed In?’ by Dale Jarvis 2014 Flanker Press Limited St John’s
Have we seen the last of the mummers this Christmas??
Check out the Mummers Song by Simini – Newfoundland Original Uncut Version
On the 7th day of Christmas we had a visit from two Sister Mummers: Susan and Bessie!
Post postscript: And on the 10th day of Christmas we had a visit from 5 more Mummers- goodness it must be half the population of Gaultois Mummering this year!