I am heading to Philadelphia for my first attendance at the annual New Year's Day Mummers Parade.
|Cousin Raffaela, sometime in the 1940's|
I have known about the mummers just about my whole life, knew one personally from birth. He was Raffaele Napolitano, my mother's first cousin, who was born and raised in South Philly.
The mummer tradition has roots that go back to Medieval Britain and Ireland and may be the oldest folk festival in the United States. Its beginnings were raucous and at one point illegal. Early on, after their early immigration to the area around Philadelphia, Swedes and Finns began parading to celebrate the New Year. Mostly, they made noise, knocked on doors and demanded free booze. Later they were joined by other working class nationalities, and the rowdies took to shooting off firearms.
The City of Brotherly Love disliked the disturbance and in
1808 passed a law forbidding the practice of noisemaking on New Year's Day.
That didn't work.
So in 1859 they repealed the law and encouraged a more acceptable form of the old practice.
By the early twentieth century, it had evolved into an organized parade with groups of elaborately costumed musicians and jesters. Nowadays it is a televised extravaganza alla Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnivale in Rio. I am looking forward to seeing it.
HAPPY 2015 TO ALL!!!