One of the longest-running – and weirdest – New Year’s traditions in the country is Philly’s Mummers Parade. Looking to partake in the revelry? Here’s what you need to know for the 115th annual event on January 1, 2015. – Chelsea Karnash
WHAT THE HECK ARE MUMMERS ANYWAY? Mummers are costumed entertainers that welcome in the new year. Apparently, mummers date back to ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt but various countries including Britain and Germany have also seen their own versions crop up at festivals throughout the centuries.
In Philly, “mummery” started in the late 1600s. Immigrants brought their holiday customs to the New World and revelers gathered in costumes and masks to celebrate the start of a new year. Then, in the late 1800s, Philly Mummers organized into two groups, the Fancy Dress and Comic clubs. The first official Philadelphia Mummers Parade took place on January 1, 1901 – more than 100 years ago.
THE MODERN PARADE: Today, more than 10,000 people march as Mummers in the City of Brotherly Love’s Mummers Parade. There are more than 40 “clubs” that participate, and those clubs are split into five divisions: Comic, Wench, String Band, Fancy and Fancy Brigades. The String Bands are mostly made up of amateur musicians that often play and compose their own music, but the other four groups use recorded songs and base their performances on their costumes and dance. Oh, and this parade isn’t just for fun – the various clubs compete to see who comes out on top.
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PARADE ROUTE: While the parade route used to begin in South Philly, it now starts at City Hall, which means the Mummers will march north to south and judging happens right away at 15th and JFK. Mummers will march straight down Broad Street to finish at Washington Avenue, and the Fancy Brigade will complete the entire route before heading to the Pa. Convention Center to perform.
WHEN: The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. and the Fancy Brigade finale runs from noon to 5 p.m.
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WHERE TO WATCH: You can stand and watch the parade anywhere on Broad Street from City Hall to Washington Avenue, but bleacher seating is offered at City Hall (for a price). The Creative Arts and Performing High School, or CAPA, which is located at 901 S Broad Street, is also offering guests a neat spot to hang out, watch the festivities and enjoy food truck fare, music, a Jumbo-tron TV and a warming area.
TICKETS: Watching won’t cost you a dime, unless you want to take advantage of the bleacher seating at City Hall or watch the Fancy Brigade finale inside the Pa. Convention Center. Tickets for bleacher seating are available at the Independence Visitor Center ($20) and tickets to the Fancy performances are $20-25 and can be purchased at www.comcasttix.com.
TRANSPORTATION: With road closures and detours (plus crowds!), driving can be tough, so it’s best to take public transportation to the city. If you must drive, city officials recommend you park in a garage rather than on the street. And remember, SEPTA will be operating on a holiday schedule, so check the website before heading out.
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BECOME A MUMMER: Yes, you can take part in the tradition, too! Anyone looking to become a Mummer can check out the contact page on the official website for more information.