You have not truly celebrated a new year until you see the Mummer’s Parade, which takes place on New Year’s Day, January 1, every year in Philadelphia. It’s a magically crazy event that takes over the streets of Southern Philadelphia and celebrates the incredibly diverse and culturally rich history of the U.S. Thousands of people from the local communities take part and spend months leading up to the event training, learning choreography, and performances for the big day to showcase and represent their districts or clubs. It’s a celebration of dance, music, and costumes and serves as a fantastical start to the new year and what’s to come.
History of Mummer's Parade
If you live in the Philadelphia area or plan on spending your holiday there, the Mummer’s Parade is the place to be, so don’t go too wild the night before. This 120-year-old parade is a staple of the Philadelphia cultural scene, with tens of thousands of people taking part, making it one of the most exciting events on the U.S. calendar. It all started in the mid-seventeenth century when the first parade was created, infusing dance, music, and costume styles from Swedish, Irish, German, and African cultures and heritages to celebrate art and tradition. It was also loosely based on the British and Irish Mummer’s plays, which were folk plays performed by troupes of amateur actors, almost like pantomimes, but with more of a mythical narrative.
Naturally, through the years, it has grown and evolved into a massive celebration that today symbolizes the amalgamation and coming together of different cultures in America and pays homage to those rich backgrounds and heritage of the people that chose to participate in the actual parade events.
Today, local clubs — who have started referring to themselves as New Year’s Brigades — collectively will compete in one of five categories, including comics, wench brigades, fancies, string bands, and fancy brigades. They spend months creating elaborate costumes, performance routines, and movable scenery. This is done in clubhouses, many of which are located on or near 2nd Street in the Pennsport neighborhood of the city’s South Philadelphia section and serve as social gathering places for members.
Mummer's Parade timeline
The first-ever documented mummer-like parade takes place in America during the Revolutionary War as a farewell send-off given to William General Howe.
The public grows tired of mummer’s and their antics, and as a result, masquerading is declared a public nuisance.
The Mummer's Parade is formally adopted by Philadelphia, which transforms it into what is now known as the modern version of this beautiful festival.
For the first time, women are officially allowed to participate in the parade and bring with them various new tools, capabilities, and performance opportunities.
Mummer's Parade FAQs
How do you become a mummer?
You can become a mummer by contacting any mummer organization and asking about their membership process.
What's another word for Mummer’s?
Mummers can also be known as masquerade, quizzers, maskers, harlequins, clowns, and pantomimes.
Are there female Mummer’s?
The participation of women in the mummer’s parade is as essential as the song “Alabama Jubilee.”
Mummer's Parade Activities
Attend the parade
Celebrate the festivities of the official Mummer’s Parade with the public and applaud the months of prep work put in by the communities. This is a great way to learn about the culture and traditions of a specific state and the various cultures of the U.S.
Plan your own parade
Organize your parade at home with your neighbors. It doesn't have to be on the same scale as the official parade, but with a few participants and some music and dance instruction, it can be a fun event that could even become a new tradition.
Celebrate your culture through music or dance
At the heart of the Mummer’s Parade are the musical and dance elements used in creative ways to tell stories and showcase art, tradition, and myth. Put together a performance as a way to showcase your heritage.
5 Interesting Facts About Philadelphia
It’s rich in theatre history
The Walnut Street Theater, located in the Trenton district, is the English-speaking world's oldest continuously operating theater.
Art thrives there
Philly plays host to the most impressionist paintings housed in a city outside of Paris.
History was made there
Philadelphia is home to the Declaration of Independence.
Philly went digital first
The first general-purpose computer in history was kept in Philadelphia back in 1946.
It’s the City of Brotherly Love
It is known as the City of Brotherly Love, honoring it as a place of religious freedom.
Why We Love Mummer's Parade
It’s an artistic celebration
This parade is the ultimate place of creative expression. Participants from all backgrounds get to see and learn about one another's creative decisions, as well as respect one another.
It ensures tradition lives on
When tradition endures, it means that our heritage is passed on for future generations to discover and enjoy. That’s why events like the Mummer’s Parade in Philly are so important.
It brings communities together
A globe is a huge place, and the Mummer’s Parade is no exception. Many different individuals from varied origins coexist and learn about one another.
Mummer's Parade dates