Sunday, January 2, 2011

Don't Ask Me What a Mummer Is

Bill and I welcomed 2010 by waking as the sun rose, having a cozy breakfast at our motel and heading to the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid. Essentially the only people there, Bill went for a bobsled ride. We followed up his slide with a “group” cross-country lesson (our group included Bill, me, our teacher and no one) for $10 and then 20k of skiing through the trails where we saw about six other people the entire time.

We eventually made our way back to the cross-country lodge where a few dozen skis sat outside waiting for their owners to finish their muesli before padding back outside for a few more laps. We ran into our teacher, sipping a cup of tea.

“God, this is the most crowded I’ve ever seen it here,” she said.

We loved it.
Can you pick me out of the crowd?
But, we also love Philly (most of the time) so we welcomed 2011 in opposite fashion of 2010. This morning we hopped on the train for a 15-minute ride downtown. A backpack packed not with Powerbars and Gu this time, but with a few beers. Why?

The Mummers parade.

What’s a Mummer? There’s quite the history (read about it here if you wish) as to how they came to their current state.

I came to Philadelphia in 1996 for college and basically never left. Here I sit, 14 years later, and I still can’t quite figure out what a Mummer is. On parade day, first the clubs of drunk people walk by. And then the string bands come, each with a different theme and the groups are judged at different points along the parade route.
The part of the parade where Mummers walk down
the street smoking, drinking and being merry.
People pack onto Broad Street hours ahead of the parade start, kids and beers in tow, and love every minute of it.

I’ve been to the parade about 4 times in my 14 years here. I never know what to make of it and sometimes want to run away from the whole thing... some of the Mummers groups are occasoinally a bit, well, stuck in 1952. Some of the groups don’t allow women (seriously) and some of them sometimes have themes that make me cringe.

In college a friend and I wrote a column for the school paper. New to Philadelphia, we questioned the Mummer tradition. Hate mail poured in (well, as much as mail can pour into the paper of a college with 2,200 students). Philadelphia loves its sports teams (try being a Redskins fan in this town … another reason I should wear a helmet at all times), Philadelphia loves its cheesesteaks and Philadelphia loves it some Mummers.

But, I will admit, I do think the whole thing is intriguing and mostly entertaining. I find myself asking a good friend who is a Mummer months before New Year’s Day what his group’s theme is and how rehearsals are going. Impressive people-watching. Impressive spectacle.

I stood atop of a giant planter. Bill looked short.

I looked scared.

Except when I didn't.

Is this scary to anyone else?

Larry, our Mummer friend.


Abby said...

I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm a lifelong Philadelphian who has never actually been to the mummer's parade...

Mallory said...

Haha sounds like it was a lot of fun!!! Great pictures!!