PHOTOS: Playing in the solstice

The doctor and the rest of the cast read out the long name of the potion he uses to resurrect the Turkish Knight. "But not many people call it that." PHOTO BY JULIE WIATT


For 25 years or so Takoma Park has celebrated the winter solstice with a mummers play and dance performance at the town gazebo and again at the city library.

The mummers play is the same every year.  The Turkish Knight character challenges the hero Prince George to a sword fight. Prince George cuts him down, but a quack doctor resurrects the knight. Father Christmas oversees the action.

Also performed yearly is a somber “horn dance,” so-called because the dancers carry deer antlers mounted on sticks.  This year the horn dancers honored the impromptu memorial for the Newtown victims that citizens have set up at the gazebo. The dancers circled the heart-shaped memorial, each bowing in turn.

The performers are the Foggy Bottom Morris Men, a group of folk dancers from the Washington, DC metropolitan area. A number of them are from Takoma Park.

The mummers play and the dances are from English folk traditions. The play is based on those performed this time of year in England. There are similar traditions all over Europe in which a group of “mummers” travels from house to house to perform their play in exchange for food, drink, and money. Some see religious or seasonal allegories in the plays, particularly those that feature a resurrection. Others say it is a ploy to get food, drink, and money.

A crowd of about 30 – 40 onlookers braved the chill air and a spattering of rain to watch the gazebo performance Dec. 20th, “Solstice Eve.” [portfolio_slideshow pagerpos=bottom]