Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy Mummer's Day

Here begins another year. This blog will get spiced and sprinkled with bits of fun and funkiness, holiday days and observances that you might not find on traditional calendars. A departure from the norm, but the norm is on vacation. Enjoy.

January 1 – Mummer’s Parade 

Mummer n. a person who wears a mask or disguise for fun.

With traces back to the worship of Momus, the Greek god of mimicry who was expelled from heaven for criticizing and ridiculing the gods, the New Year’s Day Mummer’s Parade takes place in Philadelphia. Officially sanctioned since January 1, 1901, this parade may include up to 10,000 marchers!

So for those of us not living in Philly, what the hell is this event about?

Originally this parade morphed from one that Scandinavian immigrants brought with them to their new homeland. The custom of visiting neighbors on December 26, included being rowdy, singing songs, shooting off guns, dancing and asking (demanding!) food and drink. Though not exactly a drunken bash, alcohol was a factor.

By 1840 there were Mummer clubs in Philadelphia. They celebrated from New Year’s Eve through New Year’s Day (why stop the merriment?) and were called “comic clubs” due to their humorous nature and ability to make audiences laugh. Political satire was a favorite target. This was a men’s only event; women were not allowed to participate until 1970! What began as fun and rowdiness eventually became an elaborate parade with prizes and cash awards given to the best parading clubs. Let the games begin!

Competition became fierce, occasional fights broke out between winners and losers. How could there be anything else in the City of Brotherly Love, where Philly fans once pelted Santa Claus at an Eagles game in 1968.

But today, the parade has 4 or 5 divisions, depending upon funding: Comic, Fancy, Fancy Brigade and String Band. The Wench Brigade makes up a fifth division. So, maybe you’ve been and maybe not. I know that this is now on my official Bucket List. Happy New Year and Happy Mummer's Parade Day.


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