Nationality: Irish American
Residence: Westchester, Pennsylvania
Date of Performance/Collection: April 23, 2017
Primary Language: English
The informant resides in Westchester, a suburb about 30 minutes outside of central Philadelphia.
What exactly is the Mummer’s Parade?
“It’s a Philly tradition that has gone on for a really long, started way before I was born. It occurs every New Year’s Day, on January 1st of each year. It’s a parade that goes through Broad Street in Philly, which is like the main street that goes through the city. A bunch of different clubs throughout the city sponsor people to march through the parade, all wearing crazy costumes and holding signs, while there is music and dancing going on the whole time. I think there are probably 50 different groups that participate, and it has become pretty much a competition/fashion show to see which of the clubs has the most creative or beautiful or cool presentation. A bunch of people, including my friends and I come to watch every year, and all of the spectators stand on the side and cheer on the parade.”
When did you start going to this thing?
“I started going with my dad and grandfather when I was in elementary school, so it’s an mostly geared towards families. I haven’t gone lately, but I have some great memories of seeing the different organizations in the city people represented. Some of the costumes are wild and really colorful and creative, so it brings me a lot of great memories from back in my childhood. I’ve never participated in it, but it has become one of the most unique parts of my Philadelphia identity.”
Anything else that is special about it?
“One thing that I noticed is that the participants are mostly from the South Philly area, which has a lot of Italian people. Makes me wonder if this is originally an Italian tradition. Either way, it’s just a really fun, cool part of Philly tradition that I am happy to take a part in each year.”
This is a tradition that I’ve never heard of before, which means that it is most likely very unique to the city of Philadelphia and the people who live there. I find it interesting how the parade is not focused on a single culture or ethnicity, but is instead celebrated by different organizations from across the city, making it an original Philadelphia tradition. However, the fact that many Italian people celebrate it makes me wonder if this tradition has roots in some other European celebration, and further research reveals that it was a combination of Irish, Swedish, and even African heritage, making it a real melting pot of cultures. It is interesting to see how the city has taken all of these different cultures and combined them to make something that is unique to itself.