How The Mummers Parade Brings Joy To Philly Every Year

The Famous Mummers Parade is an annual event held in Philadelphia that brings joy to all on the first day of the new year.

“Mummer” means one who acts as a mime dressed in a costume or mask. They are known to spread joy, typically around the holidays. At the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia, spectators can see all the ways that this statement reigns true.

The Mummers Parade is held every year on New Year’s Day in Philadelphia. It consists of approximately 10,000 Philadelphians belonging to forty different clubs, dressing up and performing for an audience on a route which starts at City Hall and ends on Washington Avenue.

mummers parade
Image by @staceyelle on Instagram

The forty different clubs split into five different divisions for the parade: the Fancies, Wench Brigades, Comics, String Bands, and Fancy Brigades. The five divisions compete with each other’s performances in the parade for bragging rights.

The Fancy Division consists of members of the Golden Sunrise Club located in South Philly. This division dresses in bold and elaborate costumes to please the eyes of spectators. This division brings color and sparkle to the parade, as the costumes are incredibly exquisite.

The Wench Brigade Division, similar to the Fancy Division, dresses in colorful costumes. Members are considered “traditional” Mummers, as they wear dress-and-bloomers while performing with brass bands. Decorated umbrellas are also one of their signature looks. The Wench Brigade Division began in 2003, making it the newest division to join the Mummers Parade.

mummers parade
Fancy Brigade Division. Image by @thephillychecklist on Instagram

The Comic division, the original division of the Mummers Parade, consists of performances satirizing current issues and news occurring in society. This ranges from pop culture, to political news, to sports. Members design and make their own costumes and props. Today, the Comic Division is made up of three comic clubs in Philadelphia: the Goodtimers, Landi and Murray Comic Clubs. Ages in this division vary greatly, as some members are senior citizens meanwhile some are newborn babies.

The String Band Division is made up of numerous bands playing instruments, including: saxophones, accordions, violins, banjos, mandolins, drums, bass fiddles, and the glockenspiel. Players are not allowed to use any brass instruments. It is a popular division in the Mummers Parade, as members perform lively music for all to enjoy. There is a common theme song played by the String Band Division called “Oh! Dem Golden Slippers.” The audience watching the parade can expect to hear it multiple times over the course of the String Band Division’s performances.

In addition to playing instruments, this division puts on theatrical performances, using props, scenery, and costumes. To add to its uniqueness, no professional musicians are allowed.

mummers parade
String Band Division. Image by @tltme_photography on Instagram

The Fancy Brigades originally belonged to the Fancy Division. Similar to the String Band Division, its performances consist of theatrical shows with sets, elaborate costumes and props, and choreography.

In 1977, the Fancy Brigades asked Philadelphia if they would be able to have their own division in the parade. Their request was approved, but under the condition that they would be the last division to perform in the Mummers Parade.

The Fancy Brigades first perform on New Year’s Day at the Philadelphia Convention Center, then head to perform in the parade. After their parade performance, they head back to the Convention center to perform for judges. This division splits into five different brigades who compete against each other.

mummers parade
Little Mummer. Image by @staceyelle on Instagram

Mummers first came to Philadelphia by Swedish immigrants in the 17th century. However, there was no true parade. It was more of a chaotic gathering which occurred usually at one location in different Philly neighborhoods to celebrate Christmas before eventually moving to celebrate New Year’s Day. This chaos consisted of gun fire, alcohol, and dispersing into other people’s houses, which did not sit well with the city.

In order to reduce the disarray, the city introduced the Mummers Parade in 1901. The tradition has taken place ever since.

mummers parade
String Band Division. Image by @randypikeheinzel on Instagram

The Parade is free for all spectators, unless you wish to sit in the Parade Grandstand. If this is the case, you must purchase tickets in advance at the Independence Visitor Center. You will also need tickets if you wish to see the Fancy Brigade Division’s performances in the Convention Center, and these tickets can be found online.

The parade will begin at 9 a.m. at City Hall and travel down Broad Street. Be sure to show up early if you want a good seat to watch.

mummers parade
Photo by Marilyn Paige on Unsplash

Kennedy Kollar

Content Associate

Kennedy is an entertainment junkie hailing from Pennsylvania. When she is traveling, you can find her searching for the best gluten-free foods as well as matcha and chai teas. She loves immersing herself in new cultures and wishes to visit the less-traveled hidden gems.

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