New Inn, Ireland
Mumming is now an all-but-forgotten art form, pushed aside by more modern forms of entertainment. However, it was once all the rage in Europe, particularly in the British Isles. Here and there, a handful of small towns still cling to this medieval tradition of live performances, most famously in the village of New Inn, Ireland. Every year during the holidays, locals and visitors gather here for the Mummers Festival, where they can relive a Christmas of a simpler time by enjoying performances that have been part of the local heritage for centuries.
Mummers were, simply put, groups of people who organized themselves into acting troupes during the Middle Ages. Mumming was simply the act of putting on a play, not to be confused with Mystery Plays, though. However, since live performances in Medieval times largely revoloved around the dictates of the all-powerful Church, these plays primarily involved Christian stories and themes, including the triumph of good over evil; the Resurrection; the lives of the Saints; and so forth. For the most part these troupes consisted of peasants who performed after the growing season was done. Not surprisingly, they were most active around the Christmas holidays.
The tradition of mumming, at least in regards to Christmas, seems to have originated in Ireland at some point before the Renaissance. However, similar performance traditions have been around since the days of antiquity. From Ireland it spread to Wales, England, Scotland and other parts of Western Europe, before making its way to the New World. Mumming is still practiced in parts of Newfoundland as well. The village of New Inn, Ireland has enjoyed the tradition for many centuries, and in recent years mumming has been revived as an important local holiday event.
The Mummers Festival is usually held around Twelfth Night, though the dates and lengths may vary from year to year due to weather issues. New Inn is close to the west coast of Ireland in the heart of County Galway, approximately 100 miles west of Dublin. As of this writing there was no visitor information for the next festival. Web: http://cnr.lwlss.net/GalwayMummers (official website).
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