Showing posts with label mummering. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mummering. Show all posts

Monday, May 13, 2019

Hobby Horses, Makerspaces, and Digital Literacies

Group displaying their completed horses.
Last week Dale and I led a hobby horse workshop as part of the SSHRC Conference on Makerspaces and Digital Literacies. The goal of the conference was to engage in scholarly discussion around how making is central the way that people practice literacies in their own lives. These can be both tangible and intangible objects and are very relatable to material cultures.
Pieces the horses together.
The aim of the conference was to consider how making and literacy can come together through the use of material culture to engage communities with concepts of citizenship. This conference also focused on how makerspaces can be developed in interesting and innovative ways through cultural institutions such as The Rooms and The Geo Centre.
Finishing touches.
As part of the conference Dr. Anne Burke asked Dale to give a presentation on intangible cultural heritage, and the work of the ICH office. We also led a very quick hobby horse workshop for the participants who came from different places around the world. Participants from the UK were familiar with hobby horses, and those from Finland recounted stories of a different breed of hobby horse which are ridden instead of worn. (If you want to learn more about the hobby horse revolution in Finland click here to watch a short video clip.)
Trimming up his chin.
For those who weren't familiar with hobby horses Dale gave an overview of the tradition and some of the mischief the horses were likely to get up to while mummering such as snapping clothes, stealing table clothes, turning off lights, and "eating" snacks. We split the group of fifteen into three smaller groups and led them through the process of creating and decorating a hobby horse from this template. The group had a lot of fun and were creative in the decorating process with one team adding braces to their hobby horse's teeth. If you want to learn more about hobby horses check out the Mummers Festival page, or keep your eye out come December and take in one of the hobby horse workshops offered by the festival.
Dentistry work.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Mummers #FolklorePhoto

Courtesy of Yva Momatuik and John Eastcott, This Marvellous Terrible Place: Images of Newfoundland and Labrador(Camden East, Ontario: Camden House Publishing, ©1988) 137.

Mummering - also known as jannying, depending on what area of the island your in - is a longstanding tradition in Newfoundland. Mummering is a calendar custom that takes place around Christmas time, usually beginning on Boxing Day (or St. Stephen's Day). People dress up to conceal their identity and journey from house to house, hoping for a drop of rum and some Christmas cake. In this photo we have mummers from François South Coast of Newfoundland.

Have you ever gone mummering?

If you would like to know more about the controversial history of mummering, click here to listen to our podcast with Joy Fraser.

-Katie Harvey

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Living Heritage Podcast Ep094 Beware the Christmas Terror - The Hobby Horse

Dale Jarvis, Terra Barrett, and Ryan Davis (plus bonus Yeti!)

Ryan Davis has been running the Mummers Festival since 2009. He holds an MA in Folklore and a BA in Communication Studies. It was his interest in festivals, celebrations, and costuming that led him to mummering traditions. The Mummers Festival promotes the continuation and evolution of traditional arts and performance by encouraging active participation in mummering activities. The Mummers Festival helps to keep mummering alive and contemporary.

One of the traditions the Mummers Festival has helped to safeguard is the hobby horse. With its devilish spirit and snapping jaws, it might not be the first thing one associates with the season of comfort and joy, but it is a centuries-old part of the Yuletide season in Newfoundland and Labrador. In this podcast, we chat with Ryan about all things hobby horse!


The Living Heritage Podcast is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep heritage alive at the community level. The show is a partnership between HFNL and CHMR Radio. Past episodes hosted on Libsyn, and you can subscribe via iTunes, or Stitcher. Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Living Heritage Podcast Ep079 The Isaac Mercer Mummer Murder

Joy Fraser is Assistant Professor of English and Associate Director of the Folklore Studies program at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, USA. She is completing a book tracing the cultural history of haggis as a contested symbol of Scottishness, provisionally entitled Addressing the Haggis: Culture and Contestation in the Making of Scotland’s National Dish. For the past several years, she has also been researching the relationship between Christmas mumming, violence, and the law in nineteenth-century Newfoundland.

In this episode, we focus on the murder of Isaac Mercer in Bay Roberts, who was beset upon by mummers, hit with a hatchet, and who died of his wounds. We explore the background of mummering traditions in Newfoundland, differences in mummering traditions in different communities, the events surrounding the murder case, her research using court case records at local archives, the licensing and eventual banning of mummering, and the link between mummering and violence in the historical period.

Listen on the Digital Archive:

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mummers Parade Day Events - Saturday, December 10th!

Mummers Parade Day. 4 Events. 1 Great time!
Shake out those long johns and borrow your Aunt’s size 42 bra. We’re calling all mummers to the Mummers Parade! Join us at Bishop Feild Elementary (46 Bond Street) in St. John’s at 2:00pm on Saturday, December 10th to march in the parade wearing your best mummer gear. 

The Parade will line up at 1:45pm and leave the school at 2:00 pm. 

If you don’t have a disguise, come to the Rig Up starting at 1:00pm at Bishop Feild Elementary to find a disguise on the spot. Find the perfect tea cozy hat, fashion the perfect lace veil, or turn your clothes inside out. 

Also happening at 1:00pm at Bishop Feild, the Pot ‘n’ Pan Kitchen Jam teaches mummers some simple rhythms to bang out during the Parade. Bring your pots, pans and ugly sticks. Learn some beats then hit the streets! 

A hard-stepping Mummers Scuff ‘n’ Scoff will follow the Parade from 3:00 to 4:00pm back at Bishop Feild with live musical performances by “Russells in the Corner” and traditional dance lessons from the Mistress of Misrule! We’ll also have a drop of Purity and some sweets on hand.

In case of bad weather, the Mummers Parade day events will be held at the same times on Sunday, December 11th. Notice of postponement will be made 9:00am on Saturday Dec. 10th. Go to for more information.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday's Folklore Photos - Intangible Cultural Heritage Conference

Architecture or built heritage in Old Quebec.
Today’s Folklore Photos come from the International Conference on Intangible Cultural Heritage in Quebec City, QC. The conference was held at Laval University and brought together the Folklore Studies Association of Canada, the Canadian Network for Intangible Cultural Heritage, Canadian Society for Traditional Music, the Canada research Chair in Intangible Cultural Heritage, the Institute for Cultural Heritage of Laval University, and the Centre for Culture, Art and Society.

On Wednesday evening after a day of completing tape logs and metadata descriptions at the office I flew to Toronto and then on to Quebec City for the conference where a number of folklorists and heritage professionals were meeting and presenting papers on their work. Thursday was focused on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) and there were presenters from across the country and beyond. There was a lot of discussion on UNESCO's 2003 Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention and what has happened in the ten years since the conference was ratified in 2006. Presenters from Belgium, Denmark and Norway described how their countries were working on ICH since ratifying the convention while presenters from Scotland, and Canada discussed their interest in ratifying the convention and moving forward with preserving ICH in their countries. Dale gave a presentation on the work of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Office since 2008 and focused on the Grey Sock project as an example of the work from the Heritage Foundation which celebrates, records, disseminates, and promotes ICH or the living heritage of the province.
The Huron-Wendat Museum in Wendake, QC.  Participants were treated to a tour of the museum and a banquet meal on Friday evening.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday there were presentations from folklorists, ethnomusicologists, anthologists, and many other heritage professionals. Some presentations focused on what their institutions were working on while others presented a paper or specific concept or concern in heritage. On Saturday morning I presented a paper I had written on the Mummers Festival. It was called “Shagging with the Tradition: The St. John’s Mummers Festival” and looked at how the Mummers Festival has used Intangible Cultural Heritage to create community and increase tourism. It also traced mummering as a cultural symbol for the province since the 1960s until today.
Presenting the paper Shagging with the Tradition: The St John's Mummers Festival.  Photo by Ryan Davis.
It was a beautiful weekend in Quebec City which finished with a declaration of interest in ICH in Canada and a wish for the country to ratify UNESCO’s convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage in order to preserve and promote the ICH of the country as a whole.
Laurier Turgeon and Dale Jarvis reading the declaration on ICH.
~Terra Barrett

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Living Heritage Podcast Ep036 The Mummers Festival with Ryan Davis

Ryan Davis has been running the Mummers Festival since 2009. He holds an MA in Folklore and a BA in Communication Studies. It was his interest in festivals, celebrations, and costuming that led him to mummering traditions. The Mummers Festival promotes the continuation and evolution of traditional arts and performance by encouraging active participation in mummering activities. The Mummers Festival helps to keep mummering alive and contemporary and adds to the population’s pride of place.

In this edition of the Living Heritage Podcast, Ryan talks about what mummers are and what they do, the beginnings of the Mummers Festival and how it has grown over seven years, the successes and challenges of running a festival, and what he hopes the festival will offer in the future.


The Living Heritage Podcast is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep history alive at the community level. The show is a partnership between HeritageNL and CHMR Radio. Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Create your own Newfoundland Hobby Horse for #makermonday!

Do you want to know how to make a Hobby Horse? Look no further!

It's no secret we love the tradition of Newfoundland and Labrador Hobby Horses here at the Intangible Cultural Heritage office.  So we are delighted to report that our friends at the Mummers Festival, with funding from the Helen Creighton Folklore Society, have recently completed their step-by-step guide for making your own hobby horse.

These aren't the children's toy hobby horses, but a large, fearsome folk puppet, an element of chaos which was part of the Christmas mummering tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador.

You can check out their new video on YouTube, or watch below!

There is also an earlier video about the Hobby Horse making workshops, filmed by NTV.

You can read a description of the DIY process here and download a pdf of the template here.

If you want some inspiration from across the pond, check out these cool hobbies from The Wantsum Hoodners at The Banbury Hobby Horse Festival 2010, on Vimeo.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas: A Mummer Media Roundup!

Merry Christmas to you, one and all!

The 2015 Mummers Festival got a lot of attention this year, and I wanted to pull some of the media coverage together in one place.

Newfoundland's annual Mummers Festival aims to revive a centuries-old Christmas tradition
The Globe and Mail

Making Mummeries
The Telegram

‘Any mummers ‘lowed in?’ Keeping a Christmas tradition alive in Newfoundland.
Yahoo News

St. John's 2015 Mummer's Parade

Photo by Darren Calabrese for The Globe and Mail. Christine Legrow wears a lampshade and doily on her head.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

This year, it is all about Fools at the Mummers Festival.

Though it has been years since their last appearance, Christmas Fools are still remembered for their elaborate crêpe paper and tinsel outfits as well as their mischievous antics around town on Old Christmas Day. In Pouch Cove ominous Fools would emerge from the forest of Shoe Cove and, whipping ropes in hand, chase anyone and everyone in sight. Hiding under the fish flakes was the only choice to ward off the Fools who wore giant headdresses too tall to crawl into small spaces.
There are plenty of opportunities to learn more about the Fool tradition, or to act Foolish yourself!

“Fool’s Paradise”: A Lecture and Public Forum about the NL Fool tradition
December 9 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
The Rooms

Finding Fools: Researching NL’s Fool Traditions
December 10 at 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm
The Rooms

Pouch Cove’s Ribbon Rig Workshop
December 10 at 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
December 12 AT 1:00 pm– 5:00 pm
Victoria Park Poolhouse, St. John's

Ship (Hat) of Fools Workshop
December 16 at 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
December 17 at 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Victoria Park Poolhouse, St. John's

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Labrador Memories, Fools, and Stepping Out - The ICH Update

In this edition for the Intangible Cultural Heritage Update for Newfoundland and Labrador: our Living Heritage Podcast goes national on CBC radio with a spotlight on the Labrador memories of Dave Paddon; an article by Dale Jarvis on the link between tangible and intangible cultural heritage; notes from the Mummers Festival's Sharna Brzycki on the tradition of Christmas Fools; and an overview of a new research project looking at step dance traditions in the province.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Discovering the Discovery Trail

Asset mapping in Champney's West
Ready to map the living treasures of the community
It’s been a whirlwind two days of work here in Champney’sWest.  Dale and I headed out Thursday morning for a weekend of oral history interviews, asset mapping, and an oral history workshop.  On Thursday evening there was a public asset mapping workshop held in Champney’s West to see what heritage means to the people of the community.  There were three tables of locals with a moderator taking notes on the community’s cultural organization, creative cultural industries, spaces and facilities, festivals and events, cultural heritage sites, natural heritage and intangible cultural heritage. 
Discussing the community's cultural assets
Checking out the map of Champney West's living treasures
After the community brainstormed the important cultural assets of the community the residents received a recipe card and were asked to think of a living treasure in the community.  Living treasure just means someone in the community who is knowledgeable about a particular topic or skill and why they are important.  The residents then mapped these local treasures on a map of Champney’s West.  After the map was completed everyone enjoyed a little lunch and cup of tea before heading home for the evening.

Friday morning and afternoon Dale and I interviewed two older residents of the community brothers Ben and Roy Hiscock.  Both brothers were great storytellers and told stories about growing up in the community, local shipwrecks, memories from the Second World War, and jokes from local characters.  Be on the lookout for clips of these two interviews!
Checking out Elliston, the root cellar capital of the world!
Don Johnson and I outside one of Ellison's many root cellars
Between the interviews with Ben and Roy we also headed out to Elliston to talk with Don Johnson from Tourism Elliston to do a short interview on root cellars in the root cellar capital of the world.  Don showed us a couple of cellars and explained their importance to the community in the past and to the present community.  He explained their upcoming festivals and took us out to see the puffin site and the new sealers memorial.  

The Sealers Memorial in Elliston
Puffin site in Elliston
After a lovely supper at the Bonavista Social Club we were back in Champney’s West for the first coffee house of the season.  It was a great evening with live music, jokes, stories and another small lunch.  After lunch we were in for a special treat as local characters Martha and Bertha put on a skit.  They discussed the “h’asset mapping” and the ‘eritage of the community.  They even mentioned the out of town folklorist who wrote a book on mummering.  This is when it got interesting as Bertha bet Martha he couldn't even mummer.  Let’s just say a nice bit of dress up and dancing ensued!  Check out the pictures below!

Local fiddler
Martha, Dale Jarvis and Bertha
Plankin er down!
Thanks to Champney’s West for a great two days!  Today we've got a couple more interviews and an oral history workshop in Port Union.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Playing games, putting up ice, and a trip to Paris

In this edition of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Update for Newfoundland and Labrador: the ICH office heads to Paris for UNESCO meetings; more from our Petty Harbour oral history project with memories from twins Gussie and Jimmy Kieley; Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador board member Doug Wells shares memories of cutting ice in Harbour Breton; the fall 2014 overview of ICH activities; introducing our "Hoist Your Sails And Run" project bringing together youth and seniors to talk about games; and the schedule for the 2014 Mummers Festival.

Contributions by: Dale Jarvis, Terra Barrett, Doug Wells, and Sharon King-Campbell.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Looking for Labrador Nalajuit!

Are you a Nalujuk? Have you dressed up for Nalujuk Night before? If yes, we would like to meet you. The Mummers Festival is doing some research about Nalujuk Night and would like to know more from the people who know best. How does it feel to be a Nalujuk? What do you wear? What do you do? These are just a few of the questions the Mummers Festival would like answered. If you have 30 minutes to spare, could we meet with you?

Please contact Ryan Davis, Mummers Festival Coordinator at (709) 697-8722 or by email at

Monday, December 2, 2013

Young theatre students breathe new life into old Mummers Play

Make room, make room!
The mummers play, in one form or another, has been performed in communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador for over a hundred years. In many forms, it is a hero combat play, where King George fights the forces of evil. And if someone gets cut down, have no fear, there is generally a Doctor nearby with a bag full of tricks, ready to revive the fallen character.

This theme of rebirth is particularly appropriate, given that seasoned performers Julia Halfyard and Tim Matson have been working with the MAX theatre students to breathe new life to the old plays. Their students will be presenting their version of the MAX Mummers Play this Sunday afternoon at The Rooms, in cooperation with the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Intangible Cultural Heritage program.

“MAX Theatre is delighted to partner with the Mummer's Festival in reviving the Old Mummer's Play,” says Halfyard, Director of Theatre and Celebrant of Ugly Sticks. “We are proud to explore Newfoundland and Labrador's theatrical history through our MAX Theatre program."

Matson is a theatre instructor with the program, and the person who took on the task of editing and directing the play for the students.

“Participating in the Mummers Play not only gives our students a wonderful and unique performing opportunity,” he says, “but it also puts them in touch, in a first hand way, with the heritage and traditions of our province.”

You can come see King George, the Villainous Knight, the Doctor, Pickedy Wick, and all their friends as the MAX theatre students bring tradition alive at The Rooms, on Sunday, December 8th. The play will be performed at 2:30pm and again at 3:30pm.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Vintage Newfoundland Christmas - post your old family holiday snaps!

Christmas is one of those times when people dig out their old photo scrapbooks and albums and remember the holidays of yesteryear. And we know there is some photographic gold hidden in those albums of yours - photos like the one above, of our own Nicole Penney, apparently quite happy and content in the clutches of this mummer (an early sign of a folklorist-to-be, obviously).

We want to see yours! So we've started up a Facebook group where you can share your family holiday photos, called Vintage Newfoundland Christmas. Post and comment there to your heart's content!

Don't have Facebook, but want to share? Or do you have old photos, but need some help scanning them? Don't be shy! You can email us at and we'll be happy to help.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

MAX Mummers Play: Who is Pickedy Wick?

The traditional mummers play "Soldiers acting at Christmas" was part of the folk traditions of Change Islands, Newfoundland, and dates to circa 1900. It is a hero combat play, where King George fights the King of Egypt, with a death and revival typical of other mummers plays in Newfoundland, UK and elsewhere.

Towards the end of the Change Islands play, there is a procession of stock characters, one of whom is Pickedy Wick, who enters and states:
Here comes I, Pickedy Wick,
put my hand in my pocket and pay what I thinks fit;
Ladies and gentlemen, sit down to their ease,
Put their hands in their pockets and pay what they please,
And if you don't believe those words I say,
step in Beelzebub and boldly clear thy way.
This year, we've been working with Julia Halfyard and Tim Matson with the MAX theatre program in St. John's. Tim has adapted and updated the mummers play, which the MAX theatre students will perform in December.

One of our brave band of mummers, Caitlin Harte, asked last week about who the character of Pickedy Wick is supposed represent. A fair enough question, really, as many of the characters in the traditional mummers plays are foreign to young audiences today.

I suspect the character is based on the figure of Samuel Pickwick, the hero of the Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens. Here is a quote to describe him:
He is a simple-minded, benevolent old gentleman, who wears spectacles, breeches, and short black gaiters, has a bald head, and 'good round belly.'
- Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894 

My thought is that he is in the play to represent the idea of good times, good friends, good food and good cheer - a jolly fellow, perfect for Christmas.

You can come see Pickedy Wick, King George, the Villainous Knight, the Doctor, and all their friends as the MAX theatre students perform their version of the old mummers play as part of the Mummers Festival, at The Rooms, on Sunday, December 8th.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mummers Wish List - do you have any of these items?

Hi all! I need some props for the Mummer's Play we are running with the MAX theatre students. Contact me, or Nicole Penney and we'll arrange pickup in the St. John's area.

- Stretcher or spine board, something that two teenage girls could carry (without a body on it)

- Large black or brown leather old fashioned doctor’s bag (or plumbers bag?)

- Funnel and length of hose

- Foam swords

- A big club or fake barbell, made of foam, so a small person could easily lift it

- two wooden push brooms

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Mesmerizing Miscellany of Marvelous and Majestic Mummers

The Newfoundland Historical Society along with the Museum Association of Newfoundland and Labrador will be holding its annual Gilbert Higgins free public lecture on Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 8 pm at Hampton Hall Lecture Theatre, located at the Marine Institute on Ridge Road

This months lecturer will be Paul Smith, and his talk is titled:

“A Mesmerizing Miscellany of Marvelous and Majestic Mummers: The Marketing of a Newfoundland Christmas Tradition.”—Gilbert Higgins Lecture.

This illustrated presentation explores the ways in which commodification of nostalgia has become the focus of some sectors of the market place. The marketing of tradition is by no means a new phenomenon and it has been far more extensive than we perhaps realize. This underestimation possibly stems from the fact that, while we perceive today that marketing is facilitated through some form of corporate broker or entrepreneur, in reality this is not always the case. Instead performers have often taken on this role themselves. Similarly, at the grass roots level local artists and crafts people seeing performances of traditions such, as mummers, have turn those experiences into marketable wares.

Refreshments to follow

Parking is free and everyone is welcome to attend!

For more information feel free to contact Christina Robarts at or call (709) 722-3191. You can also contact Mary Ellen at or call (709) 722-9034

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tueday's Folklore Photo: A Pretty Ugly Stick

I saw this ugly stick in a cabin in French's Cove over the weekend and was inspired to take a photo. I'm not sure who made it, but it has all the classic ugly stick features: an ugly head, some jangly noise-makers, a rubber boot for stomping, and some decorative flourishes to make it as unique as possible. I am particularly fond of the pretty feathers on this one.

You can make your own ugly stick with help from the upcoming Mummers Festival. There are two workshops that you can sign up for. Click here to learn more, and we hope to see you there!