The Mummers Parade: A Unique New Year’s Day Celebration

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New Year’s Day is about celebrating, and there’s no better place to ring in the New Year than at the Philadelphia’s Mummers Parade.

A 116 year-old tradition in which 10,000 men and women dressed in colorfully lavish costumes twirl and strut up the heart of the city, the word Mummer literally means “to costume or masquerade”. An unforgettably wild ritual, the parade and subsequent performances are all family-friendly, yet exciting enough to entertain everybody.

The Mummers Parade is a celebration of the New Year, but is serious business in Philadelphia. Clubs work on the costumes and practice all year for this one day. There are many lively discussions over the scoring by the judges and adherence to the complicated set of rules the marchers must follow when being judged. String Bands are judged on their musical presentation as well as the costumes. Seeing and hearing a String Band performing live in the parade is a one-of-a-kind experience. Anyone who hails from the Philadelphia area knows the tradition of the Mummers Parade and can say that it is a truly unique experience.

Mummers Parade in Philadelphia

This year, the parade begins at City Hall at 9am with judging taking place at 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard. The performers will continue south on Broad Street, stopping for performances at many intersections along the way, until the end point at Washington Avenue. The entire route down Broad Street is lined with people excited to take in the varying themed performances.



The parade participants are split into five divisions — Comics, Wench Brigades, Fancies, String Bands and Fancy Brigades. What characterizes these different divisions, you ask? Comics are clowns that typically lead the parade and are charged with the responsibility of getting the crowd excited and livened up for the day. Wench Brigades are an offshoot of the comics and are known for their painted faces, decorated umbrellas, and live bands to accompany the brigade. Both of these divisions are usually very well-liquored. The Fancies have small floats and strut in elaborate costumes to music provided by a live band. String bands provide the most elaborate performances and are most audience members’ favorite part of the parade. Dressed in beautiful costumes, their performances feature banjos, saxophones, accordions, drums, and violins in musical arrangements tied to a theme presented by the captain. The Fancy Brigades are the largest of the groups and perform elaborate choreographed theatrical shows.



Once the official parade down Broad Street is over, the Comics, Fancies and String Bands head down to 2nd Street, more commonly known as Two Street, to keep the party going. Local residents and others in the area for the parade crowd the local bars, clubhouses and sidewalks, sometimes joining in the unofficial parade. With the parade they spent months preparing for over, the Mummers let loose and celebrate. This multi-block party continues well into the night or early morning, with some Mummers not sleeping for twenty-four hours straight.

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As you can see, the Mummers Parade is a one-of-a-kind New Year’s tradition. If you enjoy a unique experience and a lively party, then Philadelphia is the perfect place to ring in the New Year!


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