The New Years Day traditions were alive here yesterday. It wouldn't be New Years Day without seeing the Mummers Parade. It's big business here in Philadelphia, and the oldest folk parade in the US. Company and I spent all yesterday watching men in sequins dancing around on the street. I swear, I'm not talking about us last night either!!!! One here in Philadelphia tend to watch the Mummers Parade on TV for all of January 1st.
The longest part of the parade is for the fancy brigade: the string bands (like a marching band but with banjos and impressive people marching with string basses and many saxophones), who performed elaborate field-show-meets-Broadway-production in the street in the cold. This year’s shows involved dragon heads, people dressed in entire bear costumes, babies, and more feathers and sequins that revel a drag show!!!!! The whole thing is reminiscent of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, except with more glitter and less inhibition. Different sites give different accounts of the origins of the parade, but the gist of it is that the parade started with traditions from Irish, northern European, and Scandinavian immigrants living in PA. The first government-funded parade was in 1901. The tradition apparently had something to do with going door-to-door and singing on the days after feasts (notably Christmas and New Year’s Eve) and begging for leftover food. In England, this type of practice evolved into the tradition of caroling. In Philadelphia, it evolved into this:
Most of these clubs have had members and captains for years and years, and many have grandfathers, fathers, sons and grandsons in the clubs, so it becomes a family affair. Women have now been introduced the last couple years adding to the mix. And to think, today, they will start planning for next year already!!!
The Mummers Parade is definitely interesting, anthropologically. All of the captains of the fancy meaning “dipped in sequins”, brigades were interviewed, and it's cool to hear the lucid and quite normal-seeming 30somethings talk about practicing their entire year to bedeck themselves in glitter and awesomeness in front of the entire city. As a kid from a small town who has been trained to view cities as community-less miasmas of disconnected worker drones, the enormous display of ritual, excess, and fellowship is surprising and heartening, and the extravagance of complete disregard for any semblance of subtlety was refreshing. Events like the Mummers Parade reveal important things about humans in general, I think our relative insanity and our love of the sense of community we get from practicing insanity together. So good job, Philadelphia!!!!
Of course, here at the Casa, my other tradition was in tact for my guest to enjoy......
the pork and sauerkraut were mouth watering.