Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mummers' Plays

Recently I was researching/reading information about Christmas in Appalachia.  So many traditions in our area of the country can be traced back to Ireland, Scotland, and England.  Although I am used to coming across these connections, I found an article about a type of amusement called a, "Mummers' Play", specifically concerning Christmas.  

In Appalachia a group of people would travel from house to house, no small feat in the mountainous regions, to perform these plays.  The characters would include St. George, A Knight, Father Christmas, a dragon, and a princess.  These character listed are from English tradition, but can differ in other European cultures.  

Usually these plays involved a fight with the doctor bringing the slain victim back to life.  The underlying point of the play seems to be resurrection

Photo courtesy of folkplay.info







The theme of Mummers' plays today are known to be from the mid to late 18th century. 

Photo courtesy of originalrobinhood.com
The season for Mummers' Plays throughout Britain was traditionally Christmas.  Here in Appalachia, the tradition of mumming died out after WWI.  

If you would like to read a script of a Mummers' Play performed in 1930, in Kentucky, you can do so here.

Anyone else ever heard of these?  

33 comments:

  1. I've heard of them, but I never realized it was an Appalachian tradition at one point. Cool!

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  2. I have never heard or read about this tradition. Thanks for illustrating it in this interesting post.

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  3. These look like old photos of the great great great great great....
    ancestors.

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  4. This is very interesting, they must have been determined to get the message out! xo

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  5. interesting! have never heard of this term before.

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  6. The Mummers' plays are somewhat rooted in the tradition of the passion and mystery plays performed by traveling troupes in medieval Britain. In that period, theatre was required to have a "true" purpose; it was religious instruction, and not merely a "base entertainment". It's often been said that Appalachia until the Great Society era shared a lot of characteristics of the British Isles in the feudal period- sociologically, in some ways, it still does. (okay, we're in Dead Week and I'm in professor mode- thus endeth the rant by your resident historian)

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  7. I've heard of them too but didn't really know what they were. Fascinating!

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  8. I've never heard of that before. What a cool tradition!

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  9. I love this. I think they were originally performed in England, as mention of them seems to appear in old English novels. Love our old Kentucky traditions. Thanks so much for sharing.
    Laura

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  10. I love traditions like this. We have lost so much in your modern busy lives. The legend of St. George and the Dragon exists in Sweden too and a statue of him slaying the dragon is placed in Stockholm's Old Town.

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  11. Very interesting! Never heard of that, but here in my area Los Posadas is widely practised...I love hearing the bands of musicians and singers marching down my street to stop and visit for a snack and singing...it a wonderful tradition.

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  12. Wow, interesting...It seems I'm always learning something from my blogging friends.

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  13. How interesting! Isn't it absolutely amazing how life has changed...
    I love, love, love your header...
    Beautiful place.
    shug

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  14. Airedalegirl - I like the rant! I found this topic quite interesting. I actually enjoy finding ways in which our region still connects to their European ancestry.

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  15. I had never heard of them. Very interesting!

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  16. Yes heard of them but never seen one will have to check if there are any about over here still in England:-)

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  17. My family is Appalachian what made my upbringing unique was that I was raised on Miami Beach with a large extended newly arrived family from the coal mines of West Va. I was the only family member born and raised in South Florida...I am smiling as I type my response.

    This tradition of conducting plays door to door, does not surprise me. Their roots as you mentioned were from Scotland, Ireland and England. Most came over as indentured servants to work the coal mines.

    Great post. Loved it.

    Velva

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  18. that is new too me...very interesting...

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  19. that is new too me...very interesting...

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  20. Very cool! I love the idea of going door-to-door performing.

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  21. wow..no, I have never heard of them! House to house? That's amazing!

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  22. I never heard of a Mummers play and found the information very interesting. I did hear that in olden days, before movies and TV, it was common for people to gather and put on plays and have music recitals for entertainment. It's sadly a lost art.

    I love your blog's Christmas music!

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  23. Another connection to our mutual nations European roots.

    Good for you!

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  24. In this context it didn't ring a bell although the word was familiar to me. On New Years day, in the morning, and before the Rose parade, national TV showed the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia. It all goes back, no doubt, to some common roots in medieval Europe. :)

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  25. I love watching plays, they transport me to a different world. Much better than movies.
    Never heard of this one, the theme looks good.

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  26. I had heard about the Mummers Parade but hadn't realized the parade came out of the tradition of small costumed plays that were performed on the streets or house to house. It's been interesting to learn more about these plays...thanks for sharing!

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  27. Ya learn something new everyday, don'cha? Thanks for learnin' me today. :-)
    ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  28. I've never heard of it but I can only imagine them traveling house to house through your countryside (or should I say mountainside). I think I'd have to call in sick on those days ;)

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  29. I have never heard of these plays but what a wonderful tradition. I love your header. I can feel the Christmas spirit pouring out of my computer screen.

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  30. Excellent and informative post. Nice photos too.

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  31. Interesting, I'll have to watch out for that, I've never heard of it either.

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  32. I was a mummer in Lexington, Kentucky during 1970's and 1980's. Berea College, Berea, Kentucky provides workshops annually at its Christmas School. Charles Wallner

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