the year of LIVING UNOFFICIALLY

365 days of celebration

01
January

Mummer’s Day

Posted by Brittany

Today is Mummers Day, and the first of 365 days of celebration for us!  We thought a big gesture was in order — both to ring in the new year and to toast the start of our journey — so we decided to travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the annual Mummers Day Parade.

Mummers Day dates back to an ancient pagan midwinter event celebrated with dancing, costumes, masks, and blackened faces (though recent controversy has virtually ended this last practice).  Philadelphia’s earliest settlers brought mummers traditions with them to the United States, including the custom of calling on neighbors on New Year’s Day to perform masquerades, recite rhymes, and fire guns in celebration.  Even George Washington participated in the traditions during his years in the first White House, originally located in Philadelphia.  Today the parade is held annually on January 1st, and is comprised of local associations that compete for bragging rights in one of four categories — Comics (usually intoxicated clowns carrying umbrellas or men dressed in brightly colored bloomer-suits), Fancies (marked by their intricate, often-feathered costumes and floats), String Bands (with members marching in elaborate formations), and the Fancy Brigade (akin to the Fancies but on an even larger scale).  During the parade, which is in it’s 111th year and basically lasts the entire day, a large part of the city is shut down and traffic is diverted from Broad Street, the main street in the city that leads to Philadelphia’s giant City Hall.  Thousands of locals and tourists line the road and open containers and public intoxication are either allowed or ignored for New Year’s day.

Chris and I, along with one of my closest friends, Deborah, arrived in Philadelphia on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve.  After checking into our hotel, located directly next to City Hall, we walked a brief distance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to peruse the outside grounds and ascend the steps made famous by “Rocky.”  Next we all shared a strombolli exploding with pepperoni and headed to the Franklin Institute to take in the Cleopatra exhibit full of recently recovered Egyptian artifacts from ancient Alexandria, a city now completely submersed under water.  We ended the night and rang in the New Year with a “New Years Eve Toast with a Ghost” tour courtesy of Philadelphia Ghost Tours, visiting two historic mansions in the city for tales of things that go bump in the night.  Exhausted, we returned to our room to re-energize for the Mummers Day parade.

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