By Bill Gelman
This week will have plenty of build up toward New Year’s Eve.
Besides the dinner or party plans, there is the final countdown to 2018, with the traditional champagne toast and kiss included. In Philly, the party-like vibe will just be getting started when the clock strikes midnight. Jan. 1 is a huge day around the City of Brotherly Love as the Mummers get up at the crack of dawn (many don’t even bother going to sleep) for what is considered the biggest event of the year — the Mummers Parade. One by one, the fancy division, string bands, wench, comic and fancy brigades will strut from City Hall south to Washington Avenue entertaining fans. The day also includes two shows at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and that popular 2nd Street Strut in Pennsport. It’s a Mardi Gras-like celebration minus the throwing of beads.
While some would watch rather spend what is expected to be a cold winter day indoors watching college football bowl games, especially with two of the College Football Playoff games taking place, the dedication and hard work these performers — ranging in age from child to senior citizen — put in throughout the year is worthy of a standing ovation. Being a Mummer is not a job, it’s a passion. When a new family member comes along, they are immediately welcomed into the Mummers culture. Sometimes it involves competing against one another like the Josaphouitch/Smith family does every New Year’s Day. Yes, each brigade will perform to win over the judges, but at the end of the day, it’s all about having fun.
The roots of this tradition date back to the 1600s, with 1901 being the first year the City of Philadelphia recognized the Mummers Parade. We are talking about the oldest continuous folk parade in the United States. It makes the Tournament of Roses Parade on the other coast seem like the minor leagues.
South Philly is home to many of the clubhouses, so it’s only fitting the last issue of 2017 is dedicated to the Mummers Parade. We have expanded our coverage with additional features on the history of the parade and a new brigade that will make history on New Year’s Day. Fans of the Fancy Brigades can see what the respective captains have to say about this year’s theme and show. For those wondering where the best viewing areas will be, the parade route will help with scouting out the best locations.
Yes, there will be other chances to see these Mummers perform throughout the year, including the annual Mummers Weekend in Wildwood, N.J., but New Year’s Day is what it’s all about. This is one of Philly’s biggest parties of the year — unless the Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl, of course.
Look for parade photos and results in the Jan. 3 issue.