Mummers tradition dates back to 400 BC and the Roman Festival of Saturnalias where Latin laborers marched in masks throughout the day of satire and gift exchange. This included Celtic variations of “trick-or-treat” and Druidic noise-making to drive away demons for the new year. Reports of rowdy groups “parading” on New Years day in Philadelphia date back before the revolution. Prizes were offered by merchants in the late 1800’s. January 1, 1901 was the first “official” parade offered about $1,725 in prize money from the city.
The Mummers parade is a celebration of the New Year but is serious business in Philadelphia. Clubs work on the costumes and practice all year for their one day in the sun (…wind, rain or snow). There are many lively discussions over the scoring by the judges and adherence to the complicated set of rules the marchers must follow when being judged. String Bands are judged on their musical presentation as well as the costumes. Seeing and hearing a String Band performing live in the parade is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Comic clubs tradition from ancient Greek god Momus who was the personification of mockery, blame, ridicule, scorn, raillery and stinging criticism. Momus was expelled from heaven for his/her criticisms and ridicule of the gods. The comic clubs continue to raise controversy over these themes they use in the parade that make fun of current issues and news stories such as issues involving religion, ethnicity, and feminism. Many Mummers parade controversies over polices, such as the exclusion of women and the use of black-face, lasted many years. Courtesy of http://mummers.com