Newfoundland Christmas

. Today is ‘tips eve, and the night where family members trade their shirts and ties for long john’s and double d bras, and don sheets over their heads (no, not the KKK), visit neighbors houses to partake in any kind of drink, from Purity syrup to Newfoundland Screech and relive a traditional Newfoundland custom that dates back to the province’s origins many years ago: Mummering.  As tradition has it, the mummers come knocking on your door, you try to guess who they are, and if you can’t guess, then you have to give them a drink.

When I was a kid, this used to be a yearly tradition in our community and in neighboring areas as well, but there is something about allowing a stranger with a sheet over his head into your home that sends warning signs nowadays. In fact, mummering is discouraged in many of the large centers of the province, which makes sense really.

Nonetheless, the tradition manages to continue. In Christmas plays at schools, in community centers, retirement homes, and the occasional house party, the mummers make their appearances, have a few step dances and maybe a two step, and disappear back into our memories until the next Christmas, where a nostalgic community member will work at keeping this age old tradition alive for one more year.

Below are the lyrics to the song “Any Mummers ‘lowed in”, a tune by the traditional Newfoundland duo Simani. The video follows. Enjoy, and maybe have a step or two.

Hark, what’s that noise, out by the porch door?
Dear Granny, there’s mummers, there’s twenty or more.
Her old weathered face lightens up with a grin.
“Any mummers, nice mummers ‘lowed in?”

Ah, come in lovely mummers, don’t bother the snow,
We’ll wipe up the water sure after you go.
And sit if yu can upon some mummers knee,
We’ll see if we knows who ya be.

Ah, there’s big ones and small ones, tall ones and thin,
There’s boys dressed as women and girls dressed as men.
With humps on their backs and mitts on their feet,
My blessed we’ll die with the heat.

Ah, but that one’s a stranger, if ever was one,
With his underware stuffed and his trapdoor undone.
Is he wearing his mother’s big fourty-two bra?
I knows but I’m not gonna say.

Oh, I suppose you fine mummers would turn down a drop,
Of home brew or alky, whatever you got.
Sure the one with his rubber boots on the wrong feet,
needs enough for to do him all week.

“Well I suppose you can dance?” Yah, they all nod their heads.
They’ve been tapping their feet ever since they came in.
And now that the drinks have been all passed around,
Sure the mummers are plankin’ ‘er down.

Ah, be careful the lamp, now hold on to the stove.
Don’t you swing Granny hard, ’cause you know that she’s old.
And never you mind how you buckles the floor,
‘Cause the mummers have danced here before.

Oh my God, how hot is it? We’ll never know.
Allow that we’ll all get the devil’s own cold.
Good night and good Christmas, mummers me dear,
Please God, we will see you next year.

Good night and good Christmas, mummers me dear,
Please God we will see you next year.

Please God we will see you next year

Any Mummers ‘lowed In? by Simani (Christmas Fancy, trk#1, 1984, SWC Productions, English Harbour West, NL)

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