I lived in Philadelphia for three years while in architecture school, but was always away over Christmas break, so never got a chance to attend the renowned, annual New Year's Day Mummers Parade http://phillymummers.com/. Twenty-five years later, it was finally time to heed the siren call of the string bands and follow the Mummers strut up Broad Street.
Peter and I drove down to Philadelphia on December 31st to spend New Year's Eve with our gracious hosts, Ann Listerud, Paul Fry and Nick and Tom in West Mt. Airy. On January 1st, after a first run of the New Year down to Forbidden Drive in the beautiful Wissahickon Valley (part of Fairmount Park) followed by pancakes with maple syrup, we headed into Center City.
We had no idea that we were about to enter a parallel Mummer universe - a 5th dimension where the normal Laws of Space, Time, and Logic do not apply. It is definitiely something that has to be seen to be believed.
We had fallen down a SEPTA rabbit hole and only the Mad Hatter knew what time it really was:
It was a perfectly warm and sunny New Years Day. We found some curbside real estate near the corner of Broad St. and Washington Ave. for parade viewing:
There were bizarre vestiges of Minstrelsy:
The Mummers' costume palette was an eye-popping mix of day-glo Starburst candy, melted Crayolas, and Teletubby neon:
The Mummers strut (sometimes called the 2 Street Strut after the location of many Mummer clubhouses on S.2nd Street) was accompanied by joyful string band sounds of fabulous songs from the late 19th & early 20th centuries:
Oh Dem Golden Slippers, Darktown Strutters Ball, Four Leaf Clover, Alabama Jubilee, When The Saints Go Marching In, Pack up Your Troubles, the Theme from Rocky...
There were stragglers from the all male Wenches brigade division whose costumes looked like a cross between Raggedy Ann and Vicki Lawrence's Mama character from the Carol Burnett show:
The theme shifted to Aladdin and the Thousand and One Nights:
Police and Firemen:
Devils and Ghouls:
Is that Philadephia police officer making a deal with the devil?
Or is it just another costume ?!?
Nothing says "Happy New Year" quite like wheeling a coffin up Broad Street:
This group of "skeletons" wore make-up that reminded me of black-face - which was used extensively in the parade as late as the early 1960's. The participation by black clubs that began in the early years of the parade ended in 1929. The crowd of spectators today reflects Philadelphia as a whole, but the Mummers still seemed to be overwhelmingly white and male.
A Roman soldier used his sword to wrest a Starbucks coffee from a spectator:
The warriors posed with a smiling conquered native:
Then the victorious Romans retreated to the temple across the street:
As America's longest parade began to wind down (10 AM to 8 PM or later):
We began to think about dinner and heading home.
On the way there we paused to consider the possibilities of a real South Philly "fixer-upper":
We had our traditional New Years meal of black-eyed peas (for good luck) and collard greens (for money) by Peter, and delicious ham (because it's soooo good) by Ann:
Then we headed back north up the Turnpike towards NYC from a very happy start to 2012. Thank you Ann, Paul, Nick, Tom, and the multitude of Mummers!