Nfld. & Labrador

Doilies, beer cases and Nan's bras disguise mummers at St. John's parade

Today, everyone is just 'a maggoty old mummer.'

The Christmas tradition lives on as residents plaster selves in lace and underwear

A few hundred mummers took their antics to the streets for the annual Mummers Festival parade on Saturday. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

Bev Skehans came out to Saturday's annual Mummers Parade in St. John's to make new friends, but she never imagined she'd meet another Bev Skanes.

The two women with the same name —  at least, in pronunciation — bumped into each other over their matching ugly sticks, and erupted in laughter when they realized they had more in common than their costumes.

"What are the chances?" Skanes chuckled from behind a doily and glowing sunglasses.

Bev Skanes met another Bev Skehans — different spelling, but same pronunciation — when the two met over similar ugly stick design. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

It was Skehans' inaugural parade. After 35 years in the military, she's finally retired and able to enjoy homegrown traditions, she said.

It's whimsical encounters like these that fuel the festivities, said organizer Ryan Davis.

From the wacky to slightly horrifying, everyone made sure to cover their faces and get a bit silly at Saturday's parade. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

"It's about bringing community together. It's about social bonding. It's about taking time out of your day to connect with people in your neighbourhood," Davis said amid hundreds clamouring for costumes at the pre-parade rig-up in Bishop Abraham Elementary's gym.

Donated clothes, masks and pillows for traditional bum-stuffing were laid out for the taking.

"There's a bit of magic that happens.… On this one day everyone is just a maggoty old mummer, and we can all come together and have a great time," Davis said.

Michael Pinksen, right, is a pro at mummering, and can show first-timer Reiko Maruyama how to play her ugly stick. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

Nobody seems to personify the Mummers Parade spirit more than Bobby Bessey, who hasn't missed a parade since its first iteration nine years ago.

Today her friend from Japan, Reiko Maruyama, is getting a taste of Newfoundland with her Christmas tree-themed outfit.

Bessey has brought Michael Pinksen since he was just a baby — this year, he's old enough to make his own ugly stick, a dreadlocked tribute to American rapper Lil Pump.

Yes, the dogs were dressed up, too. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

Bessey even wears a token for her late grandmother, in the form of her nan's old nightgown. But she's wearing her own bra today, she laughs.

"Basically if we see underwear popping up over the year we poke it away, and pull it out at the end of the year for this festival," she said.

Her advice for novice mummers? "You can't wear enough underwear. Everywhere, wherever you can put it."

Hundreds took a snowy walk around St. John's, with spectators peering out their windows at the unusual sight. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

Virginia Berry, who calls herself a chronic costume enthusiast, decided even the baby carriage could use a getup. 

"I feel like Nan's bra is signature mummering, so I figured the stroller might need a nan's bra," she laughs, taping the two-metre monstrosity together.

"It's a 94 HHHHH size."

Not to be outdone, Wally Upward made his own ribbon-reggae headpiece, even though he's not entirely clear on where the "ribbon fool" tradition comes from.

"I grew up in Green Bay, and that was a tradition we had when I was young," Upward said, peering out from behind a mess of ribbons, bells and Mardi Gras necklaces.

"It's sort of nice just to come back and not just relive, but revive it."

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