I have to admit, we have it pretty good here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We do not have tornadoes or major hurricanes; we do not have a high crime rate and there is almost zero % pollution. We do have rain, drizzle and fog and on this end of the island, as we say, “the east wind would almost cut you in two”.
Our weather and living on an island in the North Atlantic helps shape us into the people we are, proud of traditions and way of life. This is depicted in our songs and stories which are linked to the sea. Our traditions are also linked with our ancestors who sailed here hundreds of years ago to seek out a new life… a better life. Our ancestors came from England, Ireland, and France primarily. Each with their own traditions, including food, music and dance, all these traditions became more prevalent around Christmas time.
Tradition of Mummering or Jannying
One tradition that has etched its way into our Christmas culture is the practice of Mummering (or where I am from, Riverhead, Hr. Grace, it is called Jannying). Mummers, for those who are not familiar with this practice, are people dressed in disguise and who visit your home during Christmas, knock on your door and ask “any mummers allowed in”? or “any Jannies allowed in”?
Last week, the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation held a “Grand Old Christmas Time.” Mummers made an appearance at the Time, much to the enjoyment of everyone. The music playing in the background is The Mummers Song, written by Bud Davidage, and recorded by Simani. The song, written in 1984, is a Christmas classic in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Once invited inside they will sing and or dance and will expect a drink, usually some sort of alcohol was given. We were given home brew (homemade beer), most of the houses had large blue barrels next to their oil or woodstoves, I guess a good place for fermentation.
Childhood Memories of Jannies
As a child , growing up in the 70’s and early 80’s I was mortified of Jannies, I use to hear my relatives talk about good and bad Jannies , as a result , in my mind they were all bad, especially the hobby horse. The hobby horse usually was the last Jannie to enter the house; I could remember scooting in the room as fast as I could when I heard the SLAP of its mouth.