Over the Christmas celebrations here at the Museum, we welcomed several mummers groups to perform their traditional Christmas plays for our visitors.
Before Christmas we had the Prize Old Mummers, and for our ‘Museum at Christmas’ event we welcomed Farnborough Mummers and the Wealden Mummers – all of whom entertained our visitors with their own versions of the ancient tradition.
But what are mummers’ plays?
‘Mumming‘ is the performance of short, comic plays that focus on traditional themes of good versus evil, death and resurrection, and the changing of the old year into the new.
The hero is very often Saint George who engages in battle with a dragon. The plays also usually include Old Father Christmas and a Fool, and will often contain topical references linking the past to the present.
In the past, mummers’ plays were seen as a form of begging as they were performed for monetary reward. Such begging was frowned upon, so players would disguise themselves by painting their faces and wearing tatter coats. Nowadays, mummers’ groups usually collect for charity.
When to see mummers’ plays at the Museum
Our visitors can usually see mummers’ plays here at the Museum over the early May Bank Holiday, our Food & Folk festival and at Christmas time.