Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope everyone had a joyous holiday and look forward to a healthy, prosperous new year. Today here in Philadelphia we bring in the New Year with the Mummers Parade.

Who and what are Mummers?

To define them simply, Mummers are costumed entertainers welcoming in the New Year. Some of the earliest mummers date back to early Egypt, pagan Rome and Greece, England, Germany, and France.  Historically, Mummery has influenced customs and perpetuated many interesting traditions. Every nation had its festivals at one time or another, each marked by parades and displays of fanciful costumes.  All of these cultures passed along their traditions from generation to generation, and eventually these traditions were brought to America by immigrants. 

The Philadelphia Mummers Parade features unique costumes, music, and pageantry. Crowds line Broad St., from South Philly straight through Center City. The climax of the parade takes place at City Hall and the PA Convention Center where the official judging takes place.
The parade itself is one of the longest running traditions in the country. The parade began in 1900 as an official event for the city, however the parade has been going on since the 1800's as a way to celebrate the New Year.

Philadelphia Mummers of Today

The Philadelphia Mummers of today total over 10,000 marchers.  The parade is still held on New Year's Day, with four distinct divisions: Comic, Fancy, Fancy Brigade and String Band. Comic division clubs lampoon modern day local and national political and social themes. The Fancy division clubs wear large, ornate costumes, carrying back pieces and performing with floats and props.  The Fancy Brigade division clubs also wear large, ornate costumes, and perform intricate dances and drills with elaborate props.    
The String Band division clubs not only wear elaborate costumes like the Fancy and Fancy Brigade divisions, but also drill and perform playing musical instruments. One of the first String Band clubs was Trilby, who first paraded in 1902 and is still in existence today.  Parade rules do not permit the use of brass instruments in a String Band; the instrumentation is exclusively saxophones, banjos, accordions, violins, bass violins, and percussion instruments. Mummers String Bands are known, not only for the unique sound, but also for their elaborate costumes. Brilliant materials, glitter, sequins and feathers are all combined to make the showy costumes. Traditionally, band members, wives and friends made the costumes. Today, professional designers and costumers are utilized. In Philadelphia, the cost of costuming an average 64-piece band is between $30,000 and $80,000, with the captain's costume costing as high as $10,000. There are eighteen String Band organizations in existence today. Every year, each String Band selects an annual theme, and debuts their new music and costumes in the Philadelphia New Year's Day parade.  The marching leader of the band or Captain makes their elaborate debut doing the "2 Street Strut".

Tomorrow I will post pictures and video of Uptown Stringband, my husband's band.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Thanks for a great article Chris. It was fun seeing Mike in the parade. Love you Blog keep up the goo work:)