What is a Mummer?


PHILADELPHIA – The Mummers Parade has been a New Year’s Day tradition in Philadelphia for more than 100 years, but if you are curious as to what a Mummer is, you came to the right place.

They’re known for their colorful costumes, distinct sounds, and famous two-street strut, in the new year. but not all Mummer’s are the same. In fact, there are five distinct divisions in the parade.

The parade leads off with the Fancy Division, also known as the Fancies. Approximately 60-70 Mummers strut down the parade route in elaborate costumes, and some ride floats called frame suits. Awards are given to individuals, trios, juveniles, and captains.

Next up is the Comic Division. The Comics represent the heart and soul of the Mummer’s Parade. Costumes and performances go hand in hand to poke fun at politics and pop culture. Judges recognize floats, groups, original costumes, and juveniles.

An offshoot of the Comics, the Wench Brigade is the newest addition but showcases the most traditional ideas of the Mummers. Wenches dress in bloomers, painted faces, golden slippers, and hold the quintessential decorated umbrellas, all following a centralized theme. The rowdy Wench Brigades can really grow in size with hundreds of members.

Then comes the parade’s musical highlight: the String Band Division. Marching in military formation, these large bands use a combination of reed, string, and percussion instruments to play an arrangement of music, adding props, precision drilling, and Broadway-style choreography. String bands present a four-and-a-half-minute routine to be judged by music, costumes, performance and production.

The parade wraps up with the Fancy Brigades. This division includes groups of Mummers dressed in extravagant costumes, performing practiced dance routines. As protection from the weather, this part moves the parade indoors to the Pennsylvania Convention Center and can get very competitive.

The parade and competition go well into the evening, As soon as the feather and paint are clean, devoted Mummers start planning for the next year’s parade.

ABC27.com will live stream the 2020 Mummers Parade, starting at 9 a.m. You can watch here.

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