Thursday, January 17, 2013

Memories of Mummers Struttin' In My Head!

Having grown up in the Philly 'Burbs, there is a unique New Year's Day tradition that only the local yokels love: The Mummers!

Here we are, nearing the end of January with Cupcake home from school with a fever and guess what she begged to watch?  Mickey Mouse Club House? No.  Doc McStuffins?  Nope.  A Disney Princess Movie?  Nay.  She wanted to watch "Drummers", aka The Mummers Parade that we DVR'd.

Any chance she has had since January 1st, she has asked to watch her new found favorite show.  It seems I have created a little Mummers monster, but at least I can guarantee I'll have someone to strut with me after the ball drops every New Year's Eve...well, when she's old enough to stay up til midnight!

Since The Mummers are a local phenomenon, let me educate you.  The Philadelphia Mummers Parade is the oldest folk festival in America.  Now if you're looking for marching bands and impressive mechanized floats with celebrities lip syncing to their hit song atop majestic floral creations, than tune into the Rose Bowl Parade.  The Mummers are more feathers, sequins and string bands!

At first glance, The Mummers may seem like a chaotic group of intoxicated frat boys running a muck through the streets of Philly.  Granted, the comic division certainly does appear that way until you watch closely and listen to the commentators.  What the scrutinizing observer will note is the tradition.

Generations of  families celebrating together.  Dad's proudly carrying their toddlers upon their shoulders sporting little frog costumes.  Teens struttin' with Grandpa or sons paying tributes to fathers.  It is a family affair like no other.

Despite the rather haphazard display of the comic troupes, I couldn't help getting choked up, cuddling Cupcake on the couch and listening to the stories of these families.  They were sharing their family memories with me, while I was creating Mummer memories of my own with Cupcake.  I can't wait to enjoy the parade again next year...just her and me cuddled up on the couch with our two kitties while the rest of the family recovers from the usual late night ushering in the New Year!

Cupcake watching The Mummers Parade with Shadow and Swiffer!
My favorite part of The Mummers Parade comes with the arrival of the string bands and the fancy brigades.  These themed performances are full of amazing sets, costumes and music.  I am in awe of the creative ideas and elaborate feathered headdresses they manage to wear while playing, dancing and strutting!  In addition, they bring to mind my own Mummers memories and the reason they are near and dear to my heart.

I recall the most creative New Year's Eve parties I have ever experienced.  Fantastic food.  Themed parties with friends and family.  At midnight Dad would grab Mom and do the quintessential Mummers Strut to 'O, Dem Golden Slippers!'  "Uncle" Spero and "Uncle" Frank made sure to school us youngin's on the proper way to do the Mummer's strut.  Man could they strut their stuff...even dressed in togas for our Greek night or sporting chaps for our Western rodeo.  One of my favorite evenings was when we did the Boardwalk theme and "Uncle" Frank made sure to come dressed as the Tram Car!

Now we are all older and beginning our new family traditions.  My parents generation still gathers for their annual party, just a little more low key and with a much earlier bed time!  In honor of the wonderful memories they helped create for me every New Year's, I drag my hubby and kids to their feet and make 'em strut with me at midnight!   It is more than just the Mummer's Strut to me.