Mummers Plays were a rural activity performed not by 'Actors' but by ordinary people for their community in homes, pubs or streets.
Traditionally this was done around Christmas and New Year, although exceptions included Easter in the North West England (Pace-Egging) and Hallowe'en in Cheshire (Souling). There are many ritual elements in the Plays and the most common theme is "Death" and "Re-birth".
The author David Lodge explained Mumming as follows:
"Jessie Weston describes a mumming play performed near Rugby in Warwickshire, of which the dramatis personae are Father Christmas, St.George, a Turkish Knight, the Knight's mother Moll Finney, a Doctor, Humpty Jack, Beelzebub and Big-Head-and-Little-Wits. What do you make of that?
"Nothing very much I'm afraid."
"It's easy!" Miss Maiden cried triumphantly. "St.George kills the knight, the mother grieves,
the Doctor brings him back to life. It symbolises the death and rebirth of the crops in winter and summer.
It all comes back to the same thing in the end: the life force endlessly renewing itself. Robin Hood, as you know, is connected to the Green Man of medieval legend, who was originally a tree-god or nature spirit."
Extract from 'Small World' by David Lodge with reference to Jessie Weston: 'From Ritual To Romance'.