Mummering in Newfoundland can be traced back to the early 1800s, and was brought here by our Irish and English ancestors. So what is mummering? During the 12 days of Christmas, a group of people, usually family and friends, dress up in costumes and visit homes in their communities. If they are lowed in (and they are usually lowed in) they put on a performance that includes dancing, playing music (hopefully someone brought their accordion) singing and telling jokes. Meanwhile, the homeowners try to guess who is in the costumes, and once they guess correctly, they can offer them food or drink. The mummers, or jannies as they are known in some places, stay a while before leaving for the next house.
The costumes themselves were never anything elaborate. They were just designed to keep people from guessing who you are. Men dressed as women, women dressed as men. They wore their underwear on the outside. They borrowed someone else’s clothes because they might get recognized in their own. They’d wear flour sacks on their heads with holes cut out for the eyes.