Mummering is an age old tradition that came to our shores along with the European visitors who, for one reason or another, decided to stay. These days it’s only practiced occasionally and mainly in our rural communities where people are fairly certain that those weirdly-garbed visitors have lunacy, not larceny on their minds.
This time of year you’ll find it impossible to attend any party and not hear it. For a DJ, if people are in a particularly lazy mood this one is a sure bet to get people off their backsides and out onto the dance floor for a scuff.
The nonstalgic sentiment it beings is something that never seems to get old. “Why is that?” you might wonder. Some might say that it’s just the nonstalgic longing that is associated with either (a) expats who wish they could be home again or (b) those who have consumed too much of the craic.
Still others might say it’s related to the fact that we’re never satisfied. No matter what we have we always want more.
I think it’s more complicated and something else entirely. Let’s start with a bit of wisdom I gleaned from my brother in law Darrell some years back. At a Boxing Day party with all of the extended family present one of our sisters in law was walking around videoing people’s responses to, “What’s your favourite part of Christmas?” Darrel’s answer was the only one that has stuck with me, “watching the kids opening their presents.” It’s true, isn’t it? There are few pleasures that compare with the one that you might refer to as “the spirit of giving” and it’s made all the more magical by the presence of others. A one to one gift exchange is touching, but one in which many are present is downright magical.
It’s all about the shared experience, and that’s the whole point here. Once, not too long ago in my province, there was no electricity grid, few radios, fewer still TVs and, of course, no Internet. The fun that people had was built around the whole idea of the shared experience and included things like religious celebrations, dances, card games, parties…and mummuring.
Crude though these events may seem when viewed through the modern day lens that includes personal computers, big screen TVs, they were, arguably, an order of magnitude more intense in terms of raw enjoyment. That, not anything else, is what I suspect it is that people are longing for.
So let’s go have some fun—together.
by Cormac McConnell, performed by Celtic Thunder
The uniforms worn by the performers resemble the one worn my my Grando MacCormack and suddenly I’m drawn back in time…
The first stop is to the collectively-recalled times of my youth when the “Christmas Parcel” would arrive from Ireland. Grannie and Grando always prepared a festive package with treats for all. For my Mom and Dad there’d be…stuff. I honestly cannot recall what they’d get. You know how it can be with children’s awareness in times of great excitement, such as the opening of the parcel. The focus narrows, tunnel like, to just what pertains to them. The stuff for the parents amounted to little more than something to heighten the anticipation for the ‘real’ stuff. Next, the pudding and cake with it’s double-layered icing. The marzipan was my favourite. The box of Fry Cadbury chocolate, it’s contents to be distributed 2 or 3 pieces at a time would then emerge. Second-last were the Annuals. My Beano would be read, and re-read so many, many times. Finally the gifts for me and my sister. Legos would be my favourite.
And then off to the next stop, the world experienced by my Grando when he served in the Somme from 1915 until 1919. The song that follows is based on real-life events that were reported here and there along the front, in France and Belgium, one hundred years ago. Perhaps he was a part of it. I don’t know. Like most vets he did not speak of his time there.
You might listen to this song and get only a simple message—a cry for peace. I see so much more. Like war itself, perhaps this song is much more complicated than it seems. For those who choose to only see the futility of war I can only offer the simple fact that the majority of the countries involved in the “Great War” and the World War that followed 20 years later have not since taken arms against one another. Perhaps one lesson learned from those huge conflicts was the need to set war as only the absolute last resort and not to be so quick to set sights only on the opportunity for glory and honour since they only come at a staggering cost of human life.
As for those lives, regardless of which ‘side’ the fought for it’s plain to me that they were not and are given in vain. Though wars continue to be fought throughout our world there are still many places where peace continues to be the norm. Every second of that peace was bought and paid for by the blood of those men and women who bravely offer themselves to do what most of us deem as unthinkable. It seems therefore only right to honour those who put our peace ahead of their own safety by showing respect in any way we can and by doing our own part to ensure that war remains the choice of last resort.
Could those same soldiers who enjoyed that all too brief soldiers’ truce ever imagine what would eventually come of their actions? Now, exactly one hundred years later, can we?
I’ll be There Christmas Eve
by Ron Hynes, performed by the Ennis Sisters
There’s something of an irony in the way that a time of the year that brings the most joy can also bring back memories and feelings of pain, of hurts in inflicted by and inflicted on. The feelings come, though, perhaps triggered by a scent, something spoken to you in confidence, or a song associated with the season. You turn your head away from the crowd, fearful lest someone see your moment of weakness in the midst of often forced holiday cheer.
Perhaps it’s just balance, Maybe there’s some universal tally being kept such that every down has an up, every bad has a corresponding good, every heart-wrenching cry has a corresponding joyful laugh.
Perhaps it’s the case that every hurt inflicted does, in the act of its creation, also generate its polar opposite, a quantum anti-particle that also contains the right measure of atonement and forgiveness to nullify the misdeed. Who knows? After all, even though the physical world is, and always will be, far beyond human understanding, if there’s one thing physicists know it is that the universe loves symmetry.
Of course this is all just idle speculation. If, though, it turns out that’s the case then it behooves us all to keep an ever vigilant eye out for those golden opportunities for us to create a balance where once there was none. Our little speck of a world is right now in sore need of better equality between hurt and forgiveness.
Missed parts 1 and 2? No worries–links can be found to both at the top right of this page under “recent posts.”