Photo: Janson George/Shutterstock

Try These Holiday Traditions: Mummering, Chinese Food and Mari Lwyd

by Candice Walsh Dec 18, 2009
Looking to think outside the neatly wrapped box this year? Try these traditions on.

Everyone has those holiday traditions that conjure up nostalgic memories of years gone past. Some traditions are quiet and reflective, others are just downright strange. Here are a few new ones you should try if you’re looking to shake things up a little.

Get out and enjoy the quiet morning of December 25 – For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, like Matador Life’s Jewish editor Leigh Shulman, December 25 isn’t filled with frenzy. Instead, she likes to get up before the rest of the world and take a walk, especially in New York City:

“The streets are cold, sometimes I’m lucky and there’s a new dusting of snow on the ground. Since the rest of the city will either be sleeping in or heading to their presents under the tree, the only footprints in the snow are mine. There are no cars or people around, the only sounds I hear are people in their homes, making breakfast in the kitchen. I can hear kids squealing as they open their gifts. Sometimes you can smell burnt sugar and coffee wafting from the windows as you walk by.”

Get creative with your tree – Sick of the garland, tinsel, gaudy ornaments and flashy stars? How about a lobster trap tree, or a giant Pac Man ensemble?

Mummering, or Jannying – This is without a doubt one of the most absurd holiday traditions from my Canadian province, Newfoundland.

Mummering entails a group of individuals going door to door in a community, dressed in absurd disguises of pillowcases over heads, mitts on feet, bras on the outside of clothes, and anything else that will render a person indistinguishable.

At each home, the hosts guess the identities behind the masks, and a party breaks out with whiskey and fiddle music. For a better idea of this monumental ocassion, check out Simani’s music video.

Order Chinese food – Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, combining two cultures reflects the harmonious spirit of the holidays. Swap the turkey and cranberry sauce with chow mein and sweet and sour chicken.

Attend a Midnight Mass – I’m not a religious person, but attending midnight mass at my town’s Catholic church with my grandmother was something I looked forward to every year. It’s hard to not feel moved among family and friends as you’re standing inside your town’s most prominent structure, surrounded by hundreds of lit candles, with the choir raising the hair on the back of your neck.

Picnic and swimming – If you live where it never snows, make like the Australians and head to the beach. Pack a picnic basket loaded with a fancy dinner, and enjoy a meal in the sand without having to worry about the conditions of the roads or if the driveway needs to be shovelled.

Mari Lwyd, the “gray mare” – This pagan midwinter custom hails from the Wales and is kind of like carolling, except with a horse’s skull and a person dressed up in costume. The horse skull and entourage go to houses or pubs, singing introductory verses outside the front door, and then engaging in challenges and rhyming insults with the household/pub until someone finally backs down.


Do you or your family have any strange and unusual holiday traditions? Share them below!

Discover Matador

Save Bookmark

We use cookies for analytics tracking and advertising from our partners.

For more information read our privacy policy.