Philadelaphia Mummer’s Parade AKA How I Learned to Like New Years Again


Philadelphia Mummers

I’ve always felt that New Years Eve was an overrated holiday, first and foremost because it comes at the end of the holiday season. For me, Thanksgiving until the weekend after Christmas  is an (admittingly self imposed) onslaught of parties, traveling, boozing, eating and going with less sleep and exercise than I’m normally used to. The moral of this story is that by New Years, I’m tired, my relationship with booze is shaky at best and all I really want to do is workout and go to bed early. My siblings and I also throw a pretty big Ugly Christmas Sweater Barcrawl (that never makes it to more than one bar…)that takes some up planning and funds and usually occurs only a day or two before New Years Eve so I’m usually preoccupied with that rather than NYE plans and always end up scrambling at the last minute. Also, to be frank, NYE is a drinking holiday for people who don’t normally drink. All of these people who never go out suddenly come out of the woodwork, deciding they want to get wasted and throw down exorbitant amounts of money because they don’t spend booze money on a weekly basis. Bars are then severely overcrowded, people are epically wasted before the appropriate time and the prices are jacked up beyond control. I have a problem suddenly forking over $30.00 for a cover to bars I regularly frequent for free. I don’t hate it, but I also don’t get the same anticipation and excitement I do before almost every other holiday.

A view of City Hall down Broad Street.
A view of City Hall down Broad Street.

This year, I felt particularly used and abused going into NYE and was very seriously contemplating sitting my ass at my parent’s house and watching the ball drop from the comfort of a blanket on the couch with my brother (who shares my views on NYE and similarly felt crappy). However, because I’ve yet to mature to the point of missing out on “something fun”, I made an executive decisions at the last minute to journey to Philly because my sister was having people over to attend an open bar ($50.00 at Finnigan’s Wake, which didn’t bother me because there’s always a 10 dollar cover and I could definitely drink more than 40 worth in 4 hours) and mostly because I was curious to attend the Mummer’s Parade on New Year’s Day.  It’d heard enough about it, wanted to do something new, and also liked that I could write a post up on it.

I’m glad I went. The parade was amazing. I haven’t been this blown away by something in a long time-I have a long history of things not living up to the exceedingly high expectations I build up in my head. The Mummers blew this out of the water.

Philadelphia Mummers

I was prepared to maybe grab a few drinks, watch some guys in feathers strut up and down the streets and ship out around 3. I was not prepared to drink all day, witness a parade that lasted form 9-6 and pretty much have the best day of my life. I can assure you now that NYE 2014 will not be panicked or stressful because we’ve decided to that NYE will be maybe a nice dinner and some light drinking and then we’ll do the Mummer’s Parade right now that I’ve got a practice round under my belt.

What is the Mummer’s Parade you ask, and furthermore what is a Mummer? Well I can answer the first one for you. The Mummer’s Parade is an annual event held on New Years Day in Philadelphia, centering on South and Broad streets. It’s believed to be the oldest folk festival in the US with it’s origins dating back to the mid-17th century. The first official parade was held in 1901 and it’s been televised since 1993, the watching of the Mummers being a big tradition among many southern PA residents. The parade is a bit different than what you think of as a traditional parade. It begins on Broad street at 9:00AM and doesn’t reach it’s end on South street till well after 6. The various troops of Mummers (which we’ll get to momentarily) march for several blocks and then stop to put on elaborate shows for the thousands of people lining the streets.

There was glitter and feathers everywhere.
There was glitter and feathers everywhere.

What’s a Mummer? I’m still not entirely sure, despite asking quite of few of them. I was always aware of Mummers. There seemed to be at least one Mummer band in all the local parades I used to go to growing up and my definition of them would be something akin to “guys who dress up in elaborate feathery and sparkly costumes and play musical instruments”. Apparently Mummers are an English tradition dating back centuries and were originally traveling entertainers. like bards, but far more flamboyant.

Philadelphia Mummers
Who knows….

We started our Mummer’s Day by going to Dirty Frank’s on the intersection of 13th and Pine for a wake me up Magners and Guiness (how else is one supposed to wake up from NYE celebrations?). The bar was pretty quiet, but there were several really drunk Mummers pounding shots back at the bar. We headed back to my sister’s apartment because we desperately needed to shower, washed up, had a few more drinks, and then geared up for seeing the Mummers close up. By the time we made it to Broad street it was around 1:00 and to be honest, I was nervous that we were missing out on the bulk of the fun.

The trash was indicative of how good a time everyone was having.
The trash was indicative of how good a time everyone was having.

I was completely unprepared for the sheer amount of people in attendance. Broad street was cleared and the sides were packed with people, people who’d obviously been celebrating way longer than we had. People who were also drinking quite openly. I’m not sure if it’s legal the day of the Mummers or if the cops just look the other way, but Broad street was turned into a giant party. It was amazing. We spent some time wandering up down the street and taking a gander at a Mummer performance before ducking into Tavern on Broad to try and get caught up with the rest of the crowd.

Philadelphia Mummers
More Mummers

As with the Scranton St. Patricks’ Day Parade, bar hopping is part of the fun and Tavern on Broad was as crowded and fun as you’d want it to be, yet still breathable.  The crowd is what made it fun. Everyone was happy and in a good mood and singing along with the amazing songs the DJ was putting on (he definitely came of age in the late 90’s early 00’s, because I felt like I was at a high school dance). That’s one thing I’ll always give Philly. It’s a town of mostly happy drunks who know how to have a good time. After an hour or so we decided to move on, and while en route to South Street, decided we’d better stop back at Dirty Franks, as we were passing and it seemed rude not to.

Dirty Franks Philadelphia
The bedlam inside Dirty Franks

The once quiet bar was now completely packed with revelers and Mummers and almost every booth had people standing on it dancing. It was perfect and the cherry on top was that we got to control the juke box (which always makes any experience better, in my ever so humble opinion). As many days go, we had the best of intentions of hitting a few more bars and meeting back up with the parade when it got back to South Street, but stayed at Dirty Franks for too long and were exhausted by the time we left. We got some pizza and wings and headed back to my sister’s to promptly pass out.

Next year, I’ll be ready, but for this year, I think the Mummers won.

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