Mummers' Plays are one of the oldest surviving features of the traditional English Christmas. Mumming in England goes back for over a thousand years.
Mumming is best described as early pantomime. The plays are based loosely on the legend of St. George and the dragon. The plays are intended to show the struggle between good and evil.
During the Twelfth Night Celebrations in London, the The Lions Part Mummers perform the traditional 'freestyle' Folk Combat Play of St. George.
Half a dozen heavily disguised characters perform the play. The characters vary from play to play, although the hero is always St George, who fights with the power of evil traditionally represented by the Turkish Knight (boo hiss). Characters in the Lions Part Mummers play include the Turkey Sniper, Clever Legs, the Old 'Oss and many others, all dressed in their spectacular 'guizes'.
There is much medieval sword play in the play and usually one character eventually plays dead.
Cue the quack doctor who enters, performs a miraculous, albeit comedic, cure on the body and in the process neatly performs the symbolic act of reawakening the earth from the death of winter.
There are two more characters who may also appear in Mummers' Plays. One is Father Christmas.
The other is Johnny Jack (In the Lion's Part Mummers play the character is Gill Finney).
At the end of the Lions Part Mummers Play, cakes distributed, by a character known as Twelfth bake, have a bean and a pea hidden in two of them. Those who find them are hailed King and Queen for the day and crowned with ceremony.
The new King and Queen then lead the people through the streets to the historic George Inn in Borough High Street for a fine warming up with Storytelling, the Kissing Wishing Tree and more Dancing.
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