Sep. 16th, 2010

Philadelphia Culture: The Mummers Museum

Arts & Culture: Although the art of mumming has its genesis in medieval Europe, arguably there is nothing more uniquely "Philadelphian" than the Mummers. The Mummers Parade is held every New Year's Day in Philadelphia. Local clubs spend months crafting intricate, elaborate, dazzling costumes (which can cost tens of thousands of dollars to make and weigh over 100 pounds) and moveable scenery to compete in one of four categories: Comics, Fancies, String Bands, and Fancy Brigades. About 15,000 mummers participate every year, and tens of thousands of spectators crowd the streets to watch the all-day parade.

While the first official parade was held on New Year's Day in 1901, the celebration is nearly as old as the city itself, having begun in the mid-17th century. The Mummers' costumes, skits, songs and traditions are a melting pot of Swedish, Finnish, Irish, English, German and other European heritages, as well as African-American heritage.

The Mummers Museum opened in 1976 and is located on South 2nd Street ("Two Street" to the locals), which is home to many Mummers clubhouses and serves as a party location after every parade. Visitors can view an extensive collection of Mummers' paraphernalia and memorabilia, including the famous costumes, some of which date back to the turn of the 20th Century. Special programs (requiring advance reservations) include a guided tour and lecture on the origins of mummery, a Thursday Concert Luncheon, and children's art classes. The museum also holds outdoor string band concerts during mild weather, and offers a luxury banquet hall for rental for private parties.

The museum's hours and days change depending on the time of year; check the Web site for details.
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