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Category: christmas

A group of 14 people in costumes

Happy Holidays! AFC’s 2023 Literary Ball Mummers Play Video

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Happy holidays from the American Folklife Center! Watch a video of the AFC Mummers performing our 2023 mummers play! Then you can read the play, see the pictures, and even read the annotations if you’re interested in the history of holiday customs. This year’s play is called “Artificial Intelligence Meets Natural Stupidity: A Literary Ball Mumming.” When Artificial Intelligence tries to make writers obsolete, can St. George Eliot, Sherlock Holmes and Enola Holmes save the day? Find out in this play set at the North Pole Library Literary Ball, which includes wassailing carols and dancing to traditional tunes as well! Mummers plays are short plays which were traditionally performed in Britain, Ireland, colonial America and the West Indies at holiday time. Mummers went from house to house and pub to pub, collecting food, drink and small change as a reward for their entertainment. The American Folklife Center’s archive boasts a large collections of British mummers play texts in its James Madison Carpenter Collection.

The Green Man and Calendar Customs

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This is an entry in our occasional series on the Green Man, a figure from traditional folk culture. Among the traditional meanings shared by the figures of the Foliate Head and the Wild Man or Green Man seems to have been that humanity, like vegetation, must follow and adapt to the changing seasons. This traditional meaning could well have given rise to a connection between the Green Man and calendar customs, which goes back to some of the earliest appearances of the figure. In this post we’ll look more closely at the Green Man as an element of seasonal celebration.

A group of costumed performers in front of a Christmas Tree in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress.

Happy Holidays: AFC’s 2022 Video Mummers’ Play

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Happy Holidays from the American Folklife Center! In this blog post, you can enjoy our 2022 holiday mummers' play.  As you may know, every year, in the week of the Library’s holiday party, staff members of the American Folklife Center put our research and performance skills into play, bringing collections to life in a dramatic performance that tours the halls of the Library of Congress.  Dressed in costumes that range from striking to silly, we sing, act, rhyme, and dance for other Library staff members and for members of the public. Our performances are based on the ancient tradition of mumming, which has come down to our archive in the form of play scripts, songs, photos, and other items collected in the early twentieth century. This year's play was called The Flute of Ice: A Mumming from the Vault. This blog post includes the video, the script, explanatory notes, and still photos from the performance and dress rehearsal.

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Mumming Up 2022: AFC Mummers on December 13

Posted by: Stephen Winick

The American Folklife Center Mummers will present their annual mummers' play in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress, 10 1st Street SE in Washington, DC, at 1:00 and  3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 13. This year's play is called The Flute of Ice: A Mumming From the Vault. It's 1816 and President Madison visits the North Pole Library to deposit a flute made of ice! But soon Father Christmas, the North Pole Librarian, and Dr. Joculus have to deal with dueling monsters. Will their celebrity guest get to play the flute before it melts? The American Folklife Center’s annual holiday play incorporates traditional songs, music, and folk drama from Library of Congress collections for a zany and fun time in the Great Hall. It's open to the public, so come on in and see us perform!

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Saint George and the Hacker: A Zoom Meeting Mummers Play

Posted by: Stephen Winick

The American Folklife Center's 2021 Mummers play is about a zoom meeting that gets invaded by a hacker who won't let the participants leave until he gets a bitcoin ransom. 2021 has felt like a zoom meeting that wouldn't end, so we hope our audience can relate! Find a video of the play and the complete annotated script in this blog!

The cover of the Veterans History Project's 2021 field kit

Home for the Holidays? Take the New VHP Field Kit With You!

Posted by: Lisa Taylor

The following is a guest blog post by Owen Rogers, a Veterans History Project (VHP) liaison specialist. The Veterans History Project heard your feedback and released a new how-to Field Kit that’s more user-friendly than ever. Whether you’re virtually visiting veterans,  or spending personal time with family members who served in the military, bring the …

A man and woman surrounded by six children, who are examining gifts being unpacked from a large hamper. The father holds a turkey by the feet.

Scrooge’s Prize Turkey: Victorian Christmas Foodways in Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This post is part of an occasional series about ethnography and folklore in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.  Find the whole series here! In our last look at the foodways of Dickens’s classic story A Christmas Carol, we examined the joy the Cratchits take in their small but serviceable Christmas goose, as Scrooge and the Ghost …

Eight people sit around a table. At one end, a woman carves a goose.

Cooking the Cratchits’ Goose: Urban Foodways in Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol reveals an interesting fact about Victorian London: many working class people lacked cooking facilities, with only a hearth fire in their homes. In this post, we'll see some of their strategies for cooking a meal by looking at the Cratchits, the only working class family depicted in the book in a detailed way. We'll also look beyond the Cratchits to other London families in the same boat, and show how Dickens expresses social and political ideas about foodways through Scrooge and his interactions.

Illustration of a man in a chair by a fireplace interacting with a standing ghost

What Scrooge Ate on Christmas Eve: Folk Belief, Folk Medicine, and Foodways in Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”

Posted by: Stephen Winick

In this post, we read segments of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol ethnographically, exploring the aspects of cultural context that stand out as different, surprising, and in need of explanation. In particular, this year we'll examine unusual aspects of Dickensian foodways. In this first post, we'll find out how to determine what Scrooge ate on Christmas Eve, and discuss supernatural belief and folk medicine along the way.