PHILADELPHIA >> Philadelphia’s “Show of Shows” - the Mummers Parade - steps off on New Year’s Day at 9 a.m. at City Hall in a tradition dating back to 1901
The legendary strut begins at 15th Street and JFK Blvd. (Judging Station), Broad and Sansom streets and Broad and Carpenter streets with performances by the Fancy Division at 9 a.m., Wench Brigades at 9:30 a.m., Comics at 10:30 a.m. and String Bands at 12:30 p.m.
The String Band lineup includes Greater Kensington, Durning String Band, Pennsport String Band, Peter A Broomall String Band, Greater Overbrook String Band, Aqua String Band, Hegeman String Band, Uptown String Band, Avalon, Duffy String Band, Polish American String Band, South Philadelphia String Band, Fralinger String Band, Joseph A. Ferko String Band, Woodland String Band and the Quaker City String Band.
From City Hall, the Mummers will strut south on Broad Street to Washington Ave. where it concludes.
One of the best places to view the spectacle is from the judging stands near City Hall, but tickets must be reserved in advance. Tickets to both Fancy Brigade Finales can be purchased for $20-$25 online at comcasttix.com or in person at the Independence Visitor Center.
Spectators are encouraged to leave their cars behind and use public transportation to get into the city. Those who do drive should park in parking garages and pay attention to street parking restrictions.
Who Are Mummers?
Mummers are men and women of all ages who belong to the more than 40 organized clubs that make up the parade participants.
The clubs, split into five divisions — Comics, Wench Brigades, Fancies, String Bands and Fancy Brigades — function mainly to stage their playful performances on New Year’s Day. But, Mummers do perform at other events throughout the year, and for many Philadelphia-area families. Mummery is a tradition that spans generations.
Additional Parade Details
The day’s highlight is the parade itself, which begins at City Hall and marches south — the opposite of past parades — on Broad Street to Washington Avenue.
Each division knows its role: the Comics and Wench Brigades satirize issues, institutions and people; the Fancies impress with glamorous outfits that rival those of royalty; the String Bands gleefully play banjos, saxophones, percussion, and other reed and string instruments; and the Fancy Brigades produce tightly choreographed theatrical extravaganzas. But, the noisy camaraderie shouldn’t fool the novice spectator, as each club is embroiled in a friendly, yet fierce, competition for local bragging rights.
After the revelry, there’s more work ahead for members of the Fancy Brigades. The groups put on two elaborate Broadway-style performances for ticket holders at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in the afternoon.
Mummery traces its roots to ancient Roman laborers who ushered in the festival of Saturnalia by marching in masks while exchanging gifts and satirizing the issues of the day. In the 1600s, Swedish settlers to Philadelphia’s outskirts honored Christmas by beseeching their neighbors for dessert and liquor by dressing up, chanting and shooting firearms.
The party eventually migrated to New Year’s Day and evolved into a series of neighborhood parades; then, as immigrants moved to the area from Ireland and Italy, each group added their own cultural flair to the local customs. In 1901, the tradition began in earnest with the first recognized and judged Mummers Parade. The term “Mummer” is German and means “to costume or masquerade.”