Mummers the Word
Anyone fairly well read these days knows that many of our Christmas traditions are actually holdovers from pagan, pre-Christian days: the Christmas Tree, evergreen plants indoors (like mistletoe and holly); Santa Claus is a confabulation betwixt the Christian Saint Nicholas, the pagan elf Kris Kringle, and the Norse god Odin. But in recent years, more overtly pagan trappings have been making a comeback as part of the seasonal celebrations. Krampus the Christmas Devil, for example. And mummering.
In proper THE WICKER MAN style (the Hammer production, one starring Sir Christopher Lee, not the ungodly abomination that was the remake), ala the island of Summerisle in the film, St. John’s island, Newfoundland, gets its pagan on every Christmas. Though they don’t burn any British coppers inside giant wicker effigies (that we know of), their annual mummers parade on St. John’s was illegal as recently as the 1990s. To “mummer,” by the way, meant to dress in a costume and wear a mask to obscure one’s identity, and then go parading around celebrating or, sometimes, creating mischief (thus the reason for the illegality of it). The annual Mummers Parade on St. John’s looks as much like Mardi Gras (also partially pagan in origin) as it does Christmas. That is to say, it looks like a lot of fun. Sir Christopher would approve.