A suggestion after reading Roger Gough's thoughtful letter about the Mummers 'blacking up' and the offence to people of BAME descent. My understanding from a quick web search is that the practice comes from the Darking Day tradition, a celebration of the winter solstice as opposed to the white summer solstice festival. The disguise had a dual purpose; partly theatrical and partly to prevent identification by landlords and masters who may have disapproved of the Mummers' seasonal revelling.

Whatever its origins, the scope for misinterpretation is obvious so why not 'green, red or blue up' instead? Mummers could still wear their black costumes and masks. The Green Man has his origins in the ancient pagan practice of tree worship, a Europe wide phenomenon and the reason that many pubs bear his name. What better time could there be for reviving him?

Paul Lock

North Woodchester