Each year Canada’s most Easternly province Newfoundland and Labrador is home to a two week long celebration and parade that kicks off the Christmas season. Now in its ninth year the Mummers, often cross dressing masked characters, keep their feisty tradition at the forefront of their small island town and its mainland neighbor.
With some men in dresses and some women dressed as men, attempting to identify ones neighbors and their gender are always fun guessing games traditionally played during the celebrations. It’s all in good fun and is a bit like Halloween with a tundra twist.
As per tradition, Mummers invite themselves into the homes of their neighbors for a traditional dance party.
The tradition of mummering according to Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador, dates back to 1583 England when Sir Humphrey Gilbert brought outrageous costumes to Canada to keep his subjects entertained.
Centuries later it ultimately grew into a Christmas tradition, where groups of masked, costumed revelers spread their revelry door-to-door, inviting themselves into neighbor after neighbors’ homes.
In addition to dressing up, part of the fun is for the home owners to guess who is behind each mask and ugly old getup.
This truly is a community tradition from start to finish, beginning with what’s known as “the rig up,” where residents gather together early in the day in the gym to change into their costumes. With in an hours time, the group of hundreds make their way down local streets in a celebratory procession down town, throughout the central area of Buckmaster’s Circle and eventually go door-to-door. With both live and recorded music playing, costumed participants, along with some onlookers, dance throughout the rained slicked streets.
Considered an important part of Newfoundland’s cultural history and tradition, the masked Mummers get the entire town of 200,000 in the Christmas spirit. The family friendly event is full of costumed children as well as pets adorably dressed pets.
Mummers dance in the streets of Philly for their annual Mummers parade.
The festival which is a two-week celebration concludes with the parade. It officially began in 2009 and has grown to be adopted by twelve other communities. There are also annual mummers parades in Philadelphia on New Years Day and Hagerstown, Maryland during Halloween. The Philadelphia’s parade is thought to be the oldest folk festival in the United States, and has grown into a highly competitive and anticipated event.