Mumming and Wren Boys

Mummers

“Are you heading for the Join?” A common phrase used not all that long ago in Leitrim if there was a night of craic ahead. A join means a party; a gathering of a community to celebrate with music, song, dance and food and that’s exactly what the mummers in Leitrim are looking to do in 2022. Thanks to the support of the Heritage Council of Ireland and Leitrim County Council The Mummers’ Join project seeks to rejuvenate the mumming tradition across the county this year. Led by artist Edwina Guckian, communities are being called to grow oats, harvest the crop for straw in Autumn, learn how to make the mummers costumes, join a mumming group to go from house to house in December, march in the Mummers’ Parade and conclude with the Mummers’ Join at the end of the year - a huge celebration to mark the collective efforts made by the community. Local artists are being commissioned to create new Mummers’ plays, music, song and dance and share them with all hoping to take part in the formation of new mummer groups as well as collaborating with renowned mumming groups in the area who have kept the tradition alive.

Mumming was a big tradition amongst the people of Leitrim for the past century or more. You didn’t have to be a renowned music, singer, dancer or actor to take part. The mummers welcomed all to get involved. At Christmas, they would call from house to house in their locality, dressed in funny disguise and straw costumes bringing luck to that household for the year ahead. There would be great rivalry from one group to the next and you didn’t dare cross into each others territory or all kinds of tricks and devilment would ensue. It was bad luck not to give the Mummers some food, drink or money which was saved to put towards the party. At the end of Christmas the Mummers would host this big party for themselves and all those they called to and this was called the Mummers’ Join.

To take part in The Mummers Join or for project news and events, click here for the Mummers Join webpage.  

This project is funded by the Heritage Council and Leitrim County Council.

 


Modern Day Mummers 2020

Mummers were actors who, over the twelve days of Christmas, performed an ancient form of theatre in verse. The main characters in the performance were two battling heroes, and a doctor who revives the one that falls. This tradition continues today in some part of the country, particularly in the north of the country. In Leitrim there is a long mumming tradition which continues today. Mummers use disguise to conceal their identity and in Leitrim the custom was to dress entirely in straw.

In 2020 dancer Edwina Guckian, singer Fionnuala Maxwell and musician Brian Mostyn formed the Modern Day Mummers and visited the homes of elderly people in Leitrim who were cocooning .

Dressed in the distinctive straw head-dresses they recreated the mumming tradition that many of these elderly people would have remembered from their own childhoods. In turn the simple act of calling to the house provided a much appreciated break from the social isolation experienced by many of those visited.

A video on the Mumming and Wren Boy Traditions in Leitrim can be viewed here: MUMMING AND WREN BOYS IN LEITRIM VIDEO

A short video documenting the project can be viewed here: MODERN DAY MUMMERS VIDEO

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