Friday, January 2, 2015

America's Oldest Folk Life Event and Me

Aqua String Band - 2010 Performance.jpg
"Aqua String Band - 2010 Performance" by Roniannacone

Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

If you are born in Philly 

[Philadelphia Pennsylvania USA]

like I was,

Mummery is in your blood.


New Year's Day is 


When European immigrants 

from Scandinavia, 

and other 

parts of Europe began arriving 

in Philadelphia in the 

17th Century, they brought their 

Mummer traditions with them.

 On New Year’s Day, 

families and friends 

would “Mum” 

through their neighborhood,

making fun of the 'upper' 

classes, and asking for 

food or drink.  

“Here we stand before your door, 
As we stood the year before;
Give us whisky, give us gin,
Open the door and let us in.”

History types trace the word 


 to Greek mythology.

  King Momus was 

the personification of 

satire, mockery and 

censure.  Mummers 

can also be 

connected to the late 

Middle English word mommer 

and the Old French word momeur

which relate to miming, 

masking and 

very ancient 

folk traditions.

 While living in Philadelphia, 

first US President George Washington

continued the local 

tradition of greeting friends 

at New Year’s time.  

Because the Mummer tradition is

of the common folk,

associated with drinking

 and making fun

of their 'betters' 

Mummery has not always been 

smiled upon by 

official  Philadelphia.

In the 1800’s, the parade,

and masquerading itself

were even banned

for decades. 

But, Mummery continued 

Working class Philadelphia 

never stopped.

Steam fitters in sequins.

Working guys from the 

neighborhood, from the 

factory, practicing all year

to march on Broad Street.

[Women march 

in the parade now -

though it remains possibly

the world's best example 

of straight men

 in silly drag]

Mumming goes through the 


The people mumming today

shook hands,

with the people 

who shook hands

with the people

who were Mummers

back in the beginning.

Or so it is said.

This year, I was able
to watch the parade
streaming live from Philly.

The music, the accents,
the city. . . 
It's all in my blood.

Mumming in Philadelphia
will live long after me.
But I like to think
that part of my soul
will go on doing the

"Mummers Strut"
on New Year's Day.

I've been practicing
All Day!

Happy New Year!

From Around the Way


The unofficial theme song of the Mummers is
 “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers,” written in 1879 
by James Bland, an African American songwriter-

“Oh, dem golden slippers
Oh, dem golden slippers
Golden slippers I’se goin’ to wear
Because they look so neat
Oh, dem golden slippers
Oh, dem golden slippers
Golden slippers I’se goin’ to wear
To walk the golden street”

Historical Link

See Average people
doing the Mummers Strut-
under 1 minute: