The Mummers Museum is a great way to see how the mummers have evolved over the years.
When I was growing up in South Eastern Pennsylvania, New Year’s Day meant several things. First of all, it was clear that the Winter Break from school was ending. It also meant that we would be eating sticky buns for breakfast and one of my least favorite meals for dinner: pork and sauerkraut (for good luck, of course). And, last, but not least, New Year’s Day meant that the Mummer’s Parade would be on TV all day long (between football games of course).
I had always heard that there was a Mummers Museum in Philadelphia, and since I knew so much about the parade, but had never seen one in person, it was one of the things I was most excited to visit when we made our trip to the city of brotherly love. The Mummers Museum was relatively easy to find and the façade is decorated in bright orange, blue and green, so there is no way you can miss it!
I would guess that about now, some of you (or most of you) are wondering what a “The Mummer’s Parade” is, and rightly so, as it is something unique to Philadelphia, PA. The tradition that got started back in the 17th Century when the Swedish immigrants adapted their custom of visiting friends after Christmas and holding masquerades on New Year’s day with noisy parades and soon pistols and muskets to fire some “new year’s shots.” By the 1870s this tradition became a bit more organized when then neighborhood celebrations became an area-wide parade with Fancy Dress and Comic Clubs. The first Official Mummer’s Parade was held on January 1st 1901.
The parade is divided into different divisions. The Comics are clowns who dress up in colorful costumes with multi-tiered umbrellas, and dance to songs like “Golden Slippers.” This group also includes the wenches with “dress and bloomers” suits, wigs and painted faces. Next come the Fancy divisions, where the members wear elaborate costumes and are accompanied by floats. String bands provide the music for the performances that the fancy brigades put on.
The Fancies really are amazing performances that the clubs work all year to prepare. I used to wait all day to see the fancies with their Broadway Style productions. Each year they seem more creative than the last, and it always impressed me that these shows could travel the whole parade route on one of the coldest days of the year.
The Mummers Museum has various memorabilia from years gone by, including elaborate costumes, musical instruments and banners. It is a fun place to get a taste of the Mummers parade even if you don’t find yourself in Philadelphia on January 1st (or if you are like me, and prefer to watch the parade from the comfort of your living room). So if you have time on your visit to Philadelphia, we ruskommend you visit the Mummers Museum with 4 boquerones. It’s something as uniquely Philadelphia as the cheesesteak, and you’ll love the elaborate costumes! Rusko definitely did! 🙂