Boomeresque:Definition
1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
2. Adj.: Description of a person, place or thing possessing Baby Boomer je ne sais quoi
3. See also, Boomer, Esq.: A Baby Boomer who is also a licensed attorney (See, e.g., About).

The Philadelphia New Year’s Day Mummers Parade

by Suzanne Fluhr on January 3, 2013 · 58 comments

Philadelphia Mummers in Costume

Philadelphia Mummers Parade

Philadelphia Mummers Parade Participants on Broad Street

It’s January 2nd. This means that probably over 10,000 folks from Philly and the surrounding counties were not at work today as they are still recovering from their participation in yesterday’s Philadelphia New Year’s Day Mummers Parade and the post-parade revelry. (Actually, some have been reveling for several days with little sleep). New Orleans gets a little wacky and creative to celebrate Mardi Gras. Philadelphia does the same on New Year’s Day with the Mummers Parade.

Philadelphia Mummer

Philadelphia Mummer – Up Close and Personal

Mummery is thought to have its origins in Romans celebrating the Festival of Saturnalia. However, it was brought to the Philadelphia area by early Swedish settlers in the 1600’s who dressed up and “performed” for their neighbors to be rewarded with alcohol and sweets. (Apparently, this sometimes degenerated into inebriated people and the celebratory shooting of guns. The Philadelphia City Fathers (and nowadays, Mothers) will admit that we still get some Mummer related inebriation. However, the shooting of guns is definitely frowned upon.)

Later settlers to Philadelphia (Italians and Irish) were also fond of parading through their neighborhoods to celebrate the new year.  On January 1, 1901, these disparate celebrations were consolidated into the “official” Mummers Parade that today features some 10,000 men, women and children. They belong to forty clubs of performers and behind the scenes helpers which work year round to raise money, plan, and rehearse the spectacular that wends its way up Broad Street from South Philadelphia to City Hall on New Year’s Day.

Although official judging takes place where there are paid bleacher seats in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall and at two ticketed shows at the Philadelphia Convention Center, the parade route is two and a half miles long so anyone can snare a good vantage point.

Philadelphia Mummers Parade Costumes

Many Mummers Costumes Use Lots of Feathers

So, what will you see if you brave the winter cold on Broad Street or stay home and watch the Mummers Parade on television? You’ll see people who usually don overalls, lab coats, lawyer suits, fireman uniforms, etc. on an average work day, instead put on elaborate costumes adorned with sequins, ribbons and feathers (lots of feathers), and proceed to march, play instruments, dance and do the “Mummers’ Strut” for hours up the City’s main artery.

Mummers clubs are often inter-generational family affairs, so you might have Grandpa marching next to his Baby Boomer son, marching next to little Brittany. The clubs are divided into five divisions (Comics, Wench Brigades, Fancies, String Bands and Fancy Brigades), each with its own sets of rules for costumes and performance.

Philadelphia Mummers in Costume

There are Mummers of All Ages

If you don’t make it to Philadelphia on New Year’s Day, you can visit the Mummers Museum which often holds free concerts by various string bands and has exhibits about Philadelphia Mummery.

To appreciate the Philadelphia Mummers Parade, a picture is actually worth a thousand words, and a video with sound is even better. Or best yet, come join us here in the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection) on New Year’s Day next year!

 

Philadelphia Mummers Parade Costumes

Imagination is the Only Limit for Mummers Costumes

 

Philadelphia Mummers Parade Costumes

Each Mummers Division Picks a Theme

How is the New Year celebrated where you live or come from?

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Merrill January 3, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Great publicity for the city, and terrific photos! Keep it coming.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer January 3, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Thanks, Merrill. It is a Philadelphia original.

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avatar Steven Albelda January 3, 2013 at 2:49 pm

I agree, terrific photos!

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer January 3, 2013 at 4:04 pm

A shout out to the photographer — you!

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avatar Madaline Fluhr January 3, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Suzanne – did you actually take the photos? Did you attend the parade? The whole thing reminds me of how the Portuguese, mostly Azorean community, out here in my part of CA get together for “Festas” and have parades from the church to a hall, with the children participating bedecked in beautiful gowns – a young girl is the “queen” and they have “attendants” and sometimes themes, etc. Of course, my entre into the world of the Portuguese “Festa” has been courtesy of my Azorean husband, Eddie, and the large family contingent that came along with our nuptials! It will be a merry band for all time, now that my many nieces and nephews have married and are having kids and marrying into families that already have kids, etc., etc.!!

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer January 4, 2013 at 1:27 am

We actually took the photos at last year’s parade. The Mummers Parade is a veritable feast for photographers. Thanks for sharing the Azorean traditions.

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avatar Stacia January 3, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Great video and photos. Really captures the spirit and makes me wish I was young enough to stand out in the cold all day, drinking beer and dancing (and peeing) in the streets!

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer January 4, 2013 at 1:29 am

Yes, I think there is some public urination, but we try to keep that off the national T.V. feed.

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avatar Joan January 3, 2013 at 8:28 pm

My grandfather’s family had a house on South 2nd street, when he was a child. He always spoke about watching the “Strutters and Shooters” on 2 Street on New Year’s day.
I really appreciate that you posted pictures and videos of the great Philly tradition.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer January 4, 2013 at 1:32 am

Thanks for sharing, Joan. “Two Street” is still home base for a lot of Mummers even if they now reside elsewhere. Back in the day, the reference to “shooters” apparently was not apochrophyl.

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avatar Gill January 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Suzanne, interesting to see how other commenters recognise similarities with celebrations elsewhere and how culture travels with the movement of people. I see distinct parallels to the fasching parades of Germany and Switzerland. In particular, the costumes are very reminiscent of the parade in Thun, which I blogged a about a couple of years ago. http://www.elegantsufficiency.org/blog/2010/1/31/a-little-more-culture.htmlThat music is so distinctive – guuggemusig- and I’m wondering if that has travelled too?
http://www.elegantsufficiency.org/blog/2010/2/4/the-guuggemusig-as-promised.html

Sad to say, beyond Notting Hill and one or two similar communities in England, we don’t have much chance to have this kind of fun!

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer January 4, 2013 at 1:39 am

Philadelphia actually also had a sizeable German immigration. Indeed, a section of the city is still called Germantown. There was even a Battle of Germantown during the American Revolution, so it is possible that German immigrants also contributed to the Mumming tradition. When we lived in Devizes, in England, there was a yearly festival with Morris Dancers. I believe it was in the fall– a chance for normally staid farmers to kick up their heels — literally. Thanks for sharing your blog post.

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avatar Roz Warren January 3, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Your best post yet. LOVED the video. Sharing.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer January 4, 2013 at 1:41 am

Thanks. I guess the “sharing” is why they call it “social media”.

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avatar Suzi Jordan January 4, 2013 at 7:09 am

Thanks for the wonderful article and photos. Since I live in Dallas and it is not shown on TV here, I truly appreciate this!

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer (Suzanne) January 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm

You can take the Philadelphian out of Philly, but you can never take the Mummers out of the Philadelphian. On New Years Day, transplanted folks from the Delaware Valley all over the world give a wistful thought to Broad Street.

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avatar Josie January 4, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Hi Suzanne,
Before I attended the Mummer’s Parade, I thought it looked like a lot of fun with all the fancy costumes, but it is so much more than that! Each team stops at designated points to perform their “play” complete with scenery — some of which rises 20 feet or more — that they pull along with them as they march. The scenery must break down to be pullable by the performers. Then they reach the next designated point and start all over again. All-in-all an amazing feat.
But then there are the spectators. People are draped over street signs, lamp posts and utility boxes — not to mention the many second story apartments and offices with all windows open and three or more folks huddled to watch. Everyone is drinking, laughing, getting to know each other in their vicinity, and generally having a ball.
We happened to have friends a few blocks away and went for meatball subs after the parade. What a day!
Thanks for the great photos and video. Brava!
~Josie

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer (Suzanne) January 5, 2013 at 12:02 am

Thanks for the great description. That’s exactly what it’s like. I’m glad you had the opportunity to experience the Mummers Parade in person.

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avatar Montecristo Travels (Sonja) January 5, 2013 at 8:33 pm

We would go!!! Hey – maybe we will invite ourselves for next year! *grin*

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer (Suzanne) January 6, 2013 at 3:15 am

Sure. You can come warm up. (Montecristo and his bipeds live in Ottawa. Brrr.)

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avatar Kae Lani | A Travel Broad January 6, 2013 at 5:00 am

Great coverage of the parade!

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer January 6, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Thanks. Ditto on yours!

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avatar David Eskin January 7, 2013 at 3:49 pm

I walked down to the parade for a bit, as I often do, and always love it. The problem is, of course, catching the participants in performance. They don’t do much at Broad and Lombard, but you do get to see costumes. Also, if you don’t check the schedule and time it right, but merely go when you feel like going, you may miss the sections you wish to see/hear.
None-the-less, The Mummers Parade is a GENUINE folk festival, as valid as any of the parades in Italy or Mexico, and is always worth a visit.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer (Suzanne) January 8, 2013 at 5:00 am

All valid points, David. At the Mummers.com website, they have an “interactive” map of the parade route which points out some places along the route to see performances. However, timing (and stamina) is still an issue. The key is to make friends with someone who has an apartment overlooking one of the performance sites along the parade route. When you find that person, please introduce me!

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avatar Julie McNamee January 9, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Hi Suzanne

Shame on me, I have never heard of this one before. New Year brings out some of the most colourful parades in the world! I was just looking into the Chinese New Year celebrations in San Fran and it too of course is an amalgamation of a US parade and that of traditional Chinese culture. Thanks for posting.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer January 9, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Welcome to Boomeresque, Julie. It sounds like you should visit our side of The Pond for New Years day sometime. Americans love a parade. 🙂

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avatar Cathy Sweeney January 10, 2013 at 10:34 pm

This is totally a new one on me. Would love to be in Philadelphia for a Mummers parade and if I can’t make that, I’d definitely visit the museum. Great pics and background information. It’s so cool that multiple generations come out and march together in the parade.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer January 11, 2013 at 10:04 am

It’s a Philadelphia original and quite an undertaking for a lot of people to pull it off year after year.

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avatar Stefie January 11, 2013 at 8:50 am

What amazing colourful photos! I had never even heard of this parade before

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avatar Marcia Fluhr January 13, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Fun to see.

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avatar Pamela | Something Wagging This Way Comes January 17, 2013 at 8:41 pm

The Mummers have made a tremendous comeback. I attended my first parade in the early 1990s and it was a mess.

All the businesses on Broad Street boarded up their windows to protect their property from drunk mummers. There was no place to get food or drink. I remember seeing mummers snorting coke in the line. And every woman passing through the crowds in front of the viewing stands were subject to some type of sexual assault.

Mayor Ed Rendell did a lot to shape things up. And your pictures and video show me that the parade is better than ever.

Maybe it’s time for a Philly trip next New Year’s.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer January 17, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Yikes! I must have repressed all that bad behavior although in those days I would watch the sanitized TV version of the parade. Yes, please do come give it another chance. I think the participation of more women and children has probably had a salubrious effect.

BTW, some bipeds bring their canine friends to watch the parade.

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avatar northierthanthou May 13, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Really fascinating write-up. Thanks for the Mummeries.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 13, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Ouch. That isn’t punny 😉

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avatar Mike December 19, 2013 at 3:18 am

Oh my gosh I’ve never heard of the Mummer’s Parade! Looking at the pictures and watching the video (yes, I did) it looks like fun for people of all ages. I would absolutely check this out if we lived there, Suzanne! 🙂

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avatar Dyanne@TravelnLass December 30, 2013 at 1:28 am

“Mummers”, eh? Goodness, but I’ve never even heard of it (then again, I’m ashamed to say – as a Boomer American, I’ve never been to Philadelphia!)

Looks most festive though – the costumes amazingly elaborate – great pics and video!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr December 30, 2013 at 5:06 am

Dyanne, after I meet you in Chang Mai, Thailand, it’s only fair that your come check out Philly.

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avatar Elizabeth Rose December 30, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Can’t get more colorful than that!

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) December 31, 2013 at 11:27 am

Considering Philly’s somewhat drab reputation, the amount of color is really quite shocking. And it goes on all day.

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avatar Patti December 30, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Reminds me somewhat of the annual Halloween parade in Ashland!

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) December 31, 2013 at 11:29 am

Patti, I remember reading your post about Ashland’s parade and thinking the same thing. Parading and merriment must be something hard-wired in humans—along with all the other somewhat less attractive attributes we possess.

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avatar Neva Fels December 31, 2013 at 11:20 pm

You did an amazing coverage of the sanitized version of this great annual parade. We always watch the Rose Bowl Parade on TV. I guess our area doesn’t get this festivities. Love it.

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avatar Michelle da Silva Richmond January 3, 2014 at 2:15 pm

So interesting! I had never heard of this event.

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avatar santafetravel December 22, 2014 at 11:11 pm

I remember the Mummers from when I first the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade when I was real little. They fascinated me.

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avatar Anita @ No Particular Place To Go December 24, 2014 at 7:12 am

I’d heard of the Mummers Parade but had no idea of its origins. I loved learning about its history and how Philadelphia created its own version of the parade at the turn of the century (the last one, lol!) I’d love to go; the costumes are so colorful and the activity, sights, music and crowds must be so fun to be a part of.

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avatar Kay dougherty December 24, 2014 at 9:05 pm

I grew up in western PA – near Pittsburgh and always heard about the Mummers parade but never really understood what it was. I’m still not sure I get it entirely but those are certainly some labor intensive costumes!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr December 24, 2014 at 9:21 pm

They certainly are labor intensive costumes. They start working on the next year’s theme and costumes pretty much as soon as the parade ends. This year, they are making a few changes. They are going to do their judged performances first up by City Hall and then march south on Broad Street, but only about a mile. Then, they are also going to have another parade in Manayunk for Mardi Gras.

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avatar A Cook Not Mad (Nat) December 27, 2014 at 2:57 am

Interesting tradition, thanks for sharing!

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avatar Irene S Levine December 28, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Looks like this event gives Times Square on New Year’s Eve a run for its money!

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avatar Nathalie January 2, 2017 at 5:33 am

I like re-reading this post. This year we spent New Year’s in Florence and although they don’t have a parade, they love the fireworks and firecrackers and it seems a few people did shoot guns :/

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avatar noel January 2, 2017 at 4:33 pm

Not what I expected with that Mardi Gras like look and feel, I love all the colorful outfits and the multi-generational participation with family.

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avatar Kristin Henning January 3, 2017 at 12:46 am

This looks like so much fun! The Swedes in our neck of the woods are into the drinking part, but instead of dressing up and parading are more inclined to jump into a frozen lake. It sounds like this event promotes involvement in neighborhoods and service organizations. Cool.

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avatar Julie at FuninFairfaxVa January 4, 2017 at 8:57 am

I had heard of the Mummer’s Parade but knew nothing else about it. It was interesting to learn the backstory, and the pictures make me want to add New Year’s in Philadelphia to my travel list. Very fun article!

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avatar Rachel Heller January 7, 2017 at 5:34 am

Great pictures of the Mummers Parade, Suzanne! Nothing nearly that interesting happens here in the Netherlands. Lots of fireworks at midnight: both in the streets and a city-organized show. Lots of drinking. That’s about it!

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