There are many people, in various Western nations, who practise mummering. Mummering involves, during the snowy season, to dress up in strange looking costumes with big masks, hoods so that people do not know who is underneath. Just like Halloween where young people disguise themselves in highly fanciful; outlandish costumes during the last day of October (the 31st) which heralds the start of the snowy month of November to late March Springtime; European mummers in their disguises, during the winter festivals, paraded the streets and entered houses they were welcomed into to dance or play dice in solitary. In ancient times, mummers thought that by wearing their highly unusual costumes and through their swaying movements that they would be able to contact supernatural entities; nature spirits to help the people to endure harsh winters, have enough food, and help crops that grow in the winter to continue to grow.
The mummers would also perform other “plays” that center on frolicing, acting silly, being humorous, being statrical of others, especially important people, being controversial, while using a lot of physical energy in their performances. Some lady mummers would act sexy.The word “Mummer” has been traced back to ancient Greece. The word is derived from “Momus”. the personification of satire and mockery. Mummer is also found in an old English word “mommer” that relates to miming, masking, and mockering.
As centuries went by, the mummers began to become associated with, in Christian countries, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. People began to fill the streets turning into great crowds all the while expecting to see and hear the mummers perform their masquerade party antics; to be entertained by the mummers. Men, women, and even children have participated in these colorful, robust, sensational outfit wearing performances. Such an action resulted in the “Mummers Parade”.
Mummers have been in America for well over 3 centuries. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which was the original capital of the United States of America since 1776, since the signed Declaration of Independence document, there were a great many mummers, both European born and raised and American born and raised.
George Washington (1732-1799), who was America’s first official President, from 1789 to 1797, lived in the President’s House right on 6th and Market Street. He is credited with calling upon the Mummers New Year’s Day to celebrate the holiday for all the 7 years he lived in Philadelphia, PA.