Each December, as winter’s chill envelops Newfoundland and Labrador, in far eastern Canada, its residents prep their candy-colored houses for a series of masked visitors. The practice may sound slightly sinister, but Mummering, as it’s known to the area’s English and Irish descendants, is a joyous, Halloween-style ritual. Brought over from Britain in the 19th century, Mummering deals in the art of disguise, where groups of friends or family members travel door-to-door in their neighborhood, cloaked head to toe in costumes. The trick is for the host to identify each Mummer, at which point everyone celebrates with some whiskey or a slice of Christmas cake.
If you’re not a Newfoundland and Labrador native, the best way to join in the spirit of this quirky custom is by making a trip to the province’s snowy’ capital, St. John’s, where an annual Mummers Festival begins in late November. Over two weeks, it features various events, such as an Ugly-Stick Workshop, in which participants embellish sticks with bottle caps and tin cans meant to create a mighty racket during the festival’s culminating Mummers Parade, with hundreds of costumed souls marching through town. After the parade, crowds gather to unmask, mingle, and drink Purity Syrup, a sweet, fruit-flavored concoction similar to punch. Think of it as the biggest holiday block party you’ve ever seen.