Mummers tradition dates back to 400 BC and the Roman Festival of Saturnalias where Latin laborers marched in masks throughout the day of satire and gift exchange. This included Celtic variations of â€œtrick-or-treatâ€ and Druidic noise-making to drive away demons for the new year. Reports of rowdy groups â€œparadingâ€ on New Years day in Philadelphia date back before the revolution. Prizes were offered by merchants in the late 1800’s. January 1, 1901 was the first â€œofficialâ€ parade offered about $1,725 in prize money from the city.
The Mummers parade is a celebration of the New Year but is serious business in Philadelphia. Clubs work on the costumes and practice all year for their one day in the sun (â€¦wind, rain or snow). There are many lively discussions over the scoring by the judges and adherence to the complicated set of rules the marchers must follow when being judged. String Bands are judged on their musical presentation as well as the costumes. Seeing and hearing a String Band performing live in the parade is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Comic clubs tradition from ancient Greek god Momus who was the personification of mockery, blame, ridicule, scorn, raillery and stinging criticism. Momus was expelled from heaven for his/her criticisms and ridicule of the gods. The comic clubs continue to raise controversy over these themes they use in the parade that make fun of current issues and news stories such as issues involving religion, ethnicity, and feminism. Many Mummers parade controversies over polices, such as the exclusion of women and the use of black-face, lasted many years.
About 15,000 Mummers perform in the parade. In previous years about $400,000 in prizes was awarded which is small fraction of the cost of costumes which can cost several thousand each. The City is not providing prize money this year. Pledges of financial support include Verizon ($10,000), Geno’s owner Joey Vento ($40,000) the Electric Factory ($10,000 a year for 10 years), Forman Mills ($22,000), and the Delaware Valley Regional Economic Development Fund ($100,000). Kevin Bacon and his band, The Bacon Brothers, have also pledged to help save the parade with a Benefit Concert December 5th at The Electric Factory.
From December 27th through January 1st, you are also able to catch Mummers Fest and The Fancy Brigade Finale at the Convention Center. See what goes into making the Mummers New Years Day parade come to life each year at the Philadelphia Convention Center, with a special behind-the-scenes look at the art of mummery and preparation for the parade.
The Mummers Fest and the Fancy Brigade Finale event runs from December 27 through New Year’s Day as the Philadelphia Mummers Fancy Brigades get set for the New Year’s Day tradition, now celebrating more than 100 years in Philadelphia.
During the Mummers Fest, see the Mummers take center stage at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Halls A, B and C with brigade rehearsals throughout the week. Plus, families can enjoy free and affordable fun, including dress-up stations, face painting, prop-making, float-making, make-and-take crafts and more.
You can catch the Fancy Brigade Finale twice on New Years Day â€” at 12 p.m. and then again at 5 p.m.
Each performance will feature the most elaborate division of the parade performing eleven Broadway-style productions.
The Comic Clubs start the parade. Just like the name says, comedy is the focus. Each club has many Brigades offering a variety of themes that includes clowns, floats, and who knows? Comic Clubs include Froggy Carr Wench Brigade, Southside Shooters NYA, Happy Tappers, and more.
The Fancy Costume Division is the second section of the parade following the comics. Three major organizations each provide a variety of themes that includes floats, and who knows? The Fancy Costumer Division troops include Golden Sunrise and Oregon.
The String Bands are the third section of the parade. While the costumes are an important part of this section, the focus is on the music! The bands put on shows at events year-round. the String Bands of the Mummers Parade include Fralinger, Greater Overbrook, South Philadelphia, and more.
The Fancy Brigades is the indoor performance portion of the parade. Performances are held in the Philadelphia Convention Center. The Fancy Brigades in the Parade include Jokers, Golden Crown, Shooting Stars, and more.
The parade should go on as planned for 2010, and The Fancy Brigade is lined up at The Convention Center. But no City Money towards the parade has brought on the need for a lot of help and fundraising efforts. To learn more about the Mummers check out their main Website. and to learn more about how to help make this years parade a reality, check out the Save the Mummers website.