Christmas in Canada

Tomfoolery in Newfoundland

On the eastern coast of Canada, in Newfoundland, a different kind of Christmas celebration has been gaining popularity since the 1970s. Mummering, also called Jennying or Jannying, is a folk tradition that actually dates back to 1819 in Canada and medieval Rome before that.

The tradition generally takes place a few weeks before Christmas. It involves people dressing up in outrageousvery bold and unusual costumes, wearing masks and changing their voices in order to concealhide their identity. Once in disguise changing the way you look to hide your identity, a group of mummers will visit the home of a friend, neighbour or family member to perform a joke, song or dance. Once the host has successfully guessed the identity of the jokers, the masks are removed and the guests are invited in to drink, dance and be merryhappy.

But it was not always fun and games in Newfoundland. Mummering actually has a dark and violent past. In the 19th century, mummers often carried large sticks or other weapons. Some people took advantage of the masked costumes to rob houses and carry out violent attacks. The custom was officially banned in 1861 after a man was killed whilst walking home. The custom largely disappeared from public life, however, it is believed that people carried on mummering in their homes.

When the mummer’s song was released in 1981 by the band Simani, the tradition slowly began to return to popular culture. More recently a number of official festivals and parades have been established in celebration of mummering. Emphasisparticular importance is placed on silly homemade costumes which take advantage of household items such as curtains, blankets, underwear, pillows and shoes on the wrong feet. When it comes to mummering, tomfoolerysilly behaviour is the new normal!

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Reading Comprehension Questions

Read the questions, then read the text once (1x) and put the sentences below in the correct order.
Click and drag the sentence to move it into the correct position.

  1. The tradition of mummering starts in Rome.
  2. In Canada, people dress in costumes and masks and play the fool.
  3. People are forbidden from mummering in public.
  4. A song about mummering becomes very popular.
  5. Mummering is embraced by young and old with festivals and parades taking place each year.

Read the text again and answer the questions.

  1. When did people start mummering in Canada?in the text: Mummering also called Jennying or Jannying is a folk tradition that actually dates back to 1819 in Canada
  2. What do mummers do?in the text: Once in disguise, a group of mummers will visit the home of a friend, neighbour or family member to perform a joke, song or dance.
  3. Why did people think they could get away with murder?in the text: Some people took advantage of the masked costumes to rob houses and carry out violent attacks.
  4. What is important about mummering today?in the text: Emphasis is placed on silly homemade costumes which take advantage of household items such as curtains, blankets underwear, pillows and shoes on the wrong feet.

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