Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mummers Strut in the New Year

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So in 1859 they repealed the law and encouraged a more acceptable form of the old practice.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!!!

Annamaria Alfieri


  1. Well, I hope you enjoy it. For years I lived in Center City Philadelphia only 2 blocks from Broad Street. People got drunk on Broad Street and got sick in my neighborhood. I would always moved away from the parade. The scariest part was having VERY intoxicated people offer to help me by grabbing my cane, my arm, etc. I understand the cops now confiscate alcohol. The problem was not with the Mummers but with the crowd they attracted. Many people live for this day because they work on costumes all year.It is a colorful tradition and I know as a veteran New Yorker you will watch for pickpockets and general crowd weirdness

    1. Ah, I see, Steph. It's like St. Patrick's Day in NYC. Or that new teenage alcoholic debacle--the annual Santa Pub Crawl. And more like Mardi Gras and Carnivale than I imagined when I wrote those comparisons. Thank you for the forewarning.

  2. Wondeful to be doing something like this for the first time on New Years Day!
    I'll be going to Torino for a couple of days leaving early tomorrow. Also for me, something new! Much love and Happy 2015!

    1. Happy New Year, Nico. Torino is lovely. Have fun. I'll see you in 17 days!!!

  3. Actually a friend of mine who has lived in NYC has made exactly the comparison to St. Patrick's Day. One of the people that tried to "help" me years ago waxed rhapsodic on the pleasures of being able to drink as much as she wanted. Many people adore the parade, just be wary