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Friday, December 24 at 12 p.m. Soundprint: Mummers at the Door/ Before Tis Day

(Rochester, NY) AM 1370/FM-HD 91.5-1 presents two holiday Soundprint episodes – Mummers at the Door and Before Tis Day on Friday, December 24 at 12 p.m. Soundprint explores one subject in depth, from the impact of AIDS in Haiti, to civil rights issues in Mississippi, to what it means to learn differently from your peers. The series exploits the richly imaginative, personal medium that radio can be, brings its listeners stories from around the world, and has won virtually all major broadcast awards.

In Mummers at the Door, host Lisa Simeone explores an ancient solstice custom. Long before Santa, Bing Crosby and the Mattel Toy Company stole the occasion, even before Christianity itself kidnapped it, the Winter Solstice was celebrated with seasonal ritual. Still practiced annually in many parts of England and Ireland, Mummering died out in much of Canada and the United States centuries ago. In North America today it is a popular part of Christmas now only in Newfoundland and Pennsylvania.

On any night during the twelve days of Christmas you may hear a pounding on your door and strange indrawn voices shouting outside: Any mummers allowed? Whether allowed or not, the mummers will tumble in, loud and masked and rowdy and possibly threatening, turning normal household decorum upside down. They may be friends or complete strangers, and unless you can guess their identities you cannot be sure who is behind the mask or whether their intentions are benign. They are certain to track muddy boots across your carpet, play music, demand drink and act outrageously. All over Newfoundland, these rough-and-tumble spirits of the ancient winter solstice have survived despite the religious and commercial hoopla of modern Christmas.

In the second half of the show Soundprint presents A Little Before 'Tis Day. There is a centuries old caroling tradition that was thought to be lost, but discovered to still exist in a tiny village in Newfoundland. The villagers sing the New Year's carol, brought from Europe with the first settlers, and handed down through the ages in the community's oral tradition. There is no written transcription of the melody or its origin. For generations villagers have walked from house to house, entered darkened kitchens after midnight, and sung the carol as occupants listened in the darkness. Producer Chris Brookes tracks down the village carolers and follows them on their rounds as they sing their medieval melodies.


WXXI is the essential, life-long educational media resource for the Greater Rochester area. WXXI puts the community first with programming that stimulates and expands thought, inspires the spirit, opens cultural horizons and promotes understanding of diverse community issues. Log on to wxxi.org for more information about our services and programs.