On feast days and at festivals in old Medieval Europe, people often celebrated with Mumming. Street performers would go from house to house to public house telling their tales in the street similar to the way modern carolers go up and down the block singing their songs.
The participants performed in disguise telling stories rooted heavily in clowning. The story was often a struggle between good and evil where the good character was brought back to life and thusly triumphed in the end.
While the practice died out, there has been a revival of the form. Many places across England are embracing the tradition and coming up with new ways to mumm.
They shared elements with Commedia del'Arte drawling heavily from jesters and clowns. While traditionally a Christmas event, we might identify more with Carnival in Rio on Mardis Gras as the type of charade and spectacle. Any modern performer would see many similarities with today's theatrical tradition. Seek out your own ties to the Mummers Play and stage your own this Christmas.
Happy Birthday: Ava Gardner (1922-1990)