When You See Mummers Issuing Apologies, You Know It’s 2016
Philadelphia Mayor-Elect and other officials denounce hateful acts during the annual Philadelphia New Year’s Day Event. Parade officials banned the performance group Finnegan NYB after members were seen, amongst other things, mocking Caitlyn Jenner, gays and Mexicans. This is the parade’s 116th year running.
— Nick Kurczewski (@NKcars) January 3, 2016
Mummers are costumed entertainers that welcome in the New Year. Some of the earliest mummers date back to early Egypt, pagan Rome and Greece, England, Germany, and France. Historically, Mummery has influenced customs and perpetuated many interesting traditions. Every nation had its festivals at one time or another, each marked by parades and displays of fanciful costumes.
The Swedes were Philadelphia’s first settlers bringing their custom of visiting friends on “Second Day Christmas”, December 26. Later, they extended their period of celebration to include New Year’s Day, and welcomed the New Year with masquerades and parades of noisy revelers. Most people carried firearms for protection in those early days of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and it did not take long before pistols and muskets joined with bells and noisemakers to create the sound of a New Year. Those who “shot in” the New Year became New Year’s Shooters, and thus the name much later evolved to officially become the New Year’s Shooters and Mummers Association. Groups would travel from house to house, sing songs, and perform dances — all to be rewarded with food and drink.
By the 1870’s, what had been an uncoordinated group of neighborhood celebrations turned into an area-wide parade with two main groups of participants: Fancy Dress and Comic clubs. The City of Philadelphia finally sponsored and organized the first official Mummers Parade on January 1, 1901.
The Philadelphia Mummers of today total over 10,000 marchers featuring unique costumes, music, and pageantry. The parade is still held on New Year’s Day, with distinct divisions: Comic, Fancy, Fancy Brigade, Wench Brigade and String Band. Crowds line Broad St. from South Philadelphia straight through Center City. The climax of the parade takes place at City Hall and the PA Convention Center where the official judging takes place.
Local clubs prepare elaborate costumes and moveable scenery, which take months to complete. This is done in clubhouses – many of which are on or near 2nd Street (called “Two Street” by some local residents) in the Pennsport neighborhood of the city’s South Philadelphia section – which also serve as social gathering places for members. Numerous Irish and Italian immigrants once populated South Philadelphia, forming the Mummers and parade goers. As these groups have begun to be replaced by Asian and Hispanic immigrants, yuppies, people of color, lgbt, progressives etc. the Mummers are an example of one of the last bastions of “when America was great” before everyone was treated as if they were white.
The captain of the Finnegan’s New Year’s Brigade has responded after one of his members was caught on video making a homophobic remark. Michael Inemer released the following statement on Saturday:
The Goodtimers Comic Club and Finnegan New Year Brigade (NYB), which marches in the
Goodtimers Club, condemn the hateful speech spoken by a person marching with Finnegan on New Year’s Day. As a result of this man’s behavior the following action has been taken.
1. The person has been banned from Finnegan NYB and from the Goodtimers.
2. The person will not be allowed to march with any other club. As of this time, he is no longer considered a Mummer.
3. Finnegan NYB is reaching out to the LGBT community and offering its services to help with an LGBT fundraiser or equality awareness, and to learn more about LGBT concerns.
Mike Inemer, Finnegan New Year Brigade
Mummers Press Release
On areas of concerns raised by the public and officials in the parade, the leaders of the 5 traditional Mummers Divisions have issued the following statement. We, the Presidents of the 5 traditional Mummers Divisions, categorically reject expressions of hate and bigotry. That negative behavior and expression has no place in a parade that celebrates family, working people and the hopes for the New Year, and in a parade that has come to represent the City of Philadelphia. We hope that people realize that the vast majority of thousands of Mummers put forth entertaining and family-oriented productions. The few who violated the spirit of the community do not represent the majority. However,even a handful are too many. Therefore, we will continue to educate and to promote inclusivity and cultural awareness.
To those ends, we take the following steps on top of the discussions and steps taken in recent years.
1. We make clear that we vocally condemn any expressions of hate.
2. We pledge full cooperation with legal or government authorities looking into these areas of concern.
3. On the matter of the Mummer Comic tradition of satire and poking fun at pop culture, we will continue dialogue with Mummers about sensitivity and with non-Mummers about the Mummer tradition of humor and what can be accepted as freedom of expression and what is over the line.
4. We commit to educate and embrace inclusivity.
5. For any ethnic theme performed by a club, it will be required that the club have as advisors and/or participants members of that ethnicity to guarantee respect. These names will be made available to Division President, and to the media upon request.
6. We establish “Love the Mummers-Love the City” as a conduit for education of Mummers and non-Mummers and to bring the city closer together through inclusion in the parade of people from all walks of life and neighborhoods.
7. We will continue dialogue with community representatives and the City of Philadelphia and are beginning new discussions on issues of awareness, sensitivity, community standards and inclusion.
George Badey, Chair, Love The Mummers
Tom Loomis, President, String Band Association
Rich Porco, President, Comic Division
Robert Shannon, Jr., President, Philadelphia Mummers Association
Charlie McKenna, President, Wench Brigade Division
Jack Cohen, President, Fancy Division
Bill Burke, Jr., Vice-President, Fancy Brigade Association
January 2, 2016
Contact: George Badey 215 790-1000
It’s Just Business
Mummers are old school meaning racism and bigotry are entrenched and often passed on from parents to children. While apologies are probably not willingly given here, they are necessary as the Mummers aren’t Trump. They aren’t self–funding We have noted why this is:
America’s major corporations have become socially liberal though they are still staunchly capitalist. This is most likely due to shareholders, customers, employees and competition that are all now global. Offending groups of people means giving up market share to competitors. It’s better to collude with your competitors in deciding what will be available to the consumer on the market. Profiting off of outrage has short term benefits, but branding issues over the long term. Not fulfilling the needs of the outraged market (those who want confederate flags for example) is a risk, but in the opinion of major corporations, is worth taking as to not alienate what they deem to be a larger market against such things.