Medieval Plays are one of the oldest surviving features of the traditional English Christmas, with roots back millennia to ancient times, essentialy, dramatic entertainment that evolved over time and that is still performed in a few villages and towns today.
Tewkesbury's Mummers keep this ancient heritage alive by performing in numerous town pubs on Boxing Day each year. British Royalmail commerated this ancient heritage in December 1981 with 'Medieval Mummers' stamps.
Please check the What's On Guide (following button) for performances during the Christmas and New Year break. There is also the annual world renowned FREE Medieval Festival in July each year.
What's On Guide or Medieval Festival July
A Medieval 'Mummer' was an entertainer or amateur actor who performed in different plays. These were a common event during William Shakspeare's time and a likely early influence. Such actors dressed in spectacular style, which is still very much echoed today.
'Mumming' can be thought of as an early form of pantomime. Some Medieval versions are based loosely on the legend of St George and the Dragon.
In some plays (such as Tewkesbury) a champion is killed in a fight and brought back to life by a doctor, both illustrating the struggle between good and evil.
Other characters can include a presenter, a fool in cap with bells, a man dressed in woman's clothes and Father Christmas has also appeared.
One form consisted of a parade of people wearing masks, typicaly at Christmas or New Year, they entered their neighbours houses for their entertainment and to play dice which were loaded so the hosts won the prizes.
As in the enduring custom in Scottland now, perhaps then implying good fortune, or the favour of the gods to those who won and thus it may have been seen as an omen for continuation throughout the new year.
In Scottland and the North of England, the first person to enter a household on New Year's Day is seen as a bringer of good fortune for the coming year. There is a similar Greek tradition called 'pothariko'.
The name 'mumming' has been connected with words such as 'mumble' and 'mute', for example, the German term 'mumme' meaning 'mask' or 'masker' and the Greek 'mommo' meaning a 'frightening mask'.
In Europe 'Mummers' were historically groups of masked people parading during winter festivals. The similar 'Momerie' was a popular amusement between the 13th and 16th century in Europe.
During the 16th century Italian carnivals adopted such masquerading, the forerunner of the court entertainment known as 'masque'.
Town Car Parking is available on street (1 hour) and a short walk away, please look for car park signs near the Mummers Medieval Play event or click the button at the top of the page to view the Location Map.
The following photos also illustrate the Boxing Day 2018 Medieval Play event.