Saturday, December 21, 2013

Woodland String Band Mummers 2012 If you've never seen a Philadelphia New Years Day MUMMERS PARADE, here's a good peek. Ties in to Tomorrow's WINTER SOLSTICE, VAMPIRE TALE

The parade lasts all day. Early morning hours are given to hordes of clowns, female impersonators and what we in Philadelphia call 'king jockeys.' It's an old tradition going back to B.P. (before Penn) times. Swedish and Dutch settlers celebrated the sun's return with outlandish costumes and street to street parades. Everybody got drunk and shot off their muskets, thus for centuries New Year's revelers were called New Year's 'Shooters.' It's only recently they stopped shooting guns off, 'cause what goes up must come down and a few people got their skulls accidentally ventilated. Large scale neighborhood parades date to late colonial times, finally becoming formalized in 1901.

Today, the twin jewels in the crown are the STRING BANDS and the FANCY DIVISIONS. They're like New Orleans Mardi Gras crews.  Membership is a familial affair going back generations and the music is based on old minstrel shows. Most string bands and fancy divisions (brass instruments allowed) bring in professional stagers from the legitimate theater. Prizes are awarded (largely token amounts) but bragging rights are the big thing. Each individual member spends thousands of dollars a year.

Until a generation or two ago all parts were filled by men or boys. "Females' were called 'wenches' and non-white participants were practically non existent. Such practices, thankfully, disappeared in the sixties and seventies.

If you're in the city over New Years, hordes of people DO get up early and go 'in town' to see the festivities. Bleacher seats, near judges' stand are available for a price, but most spectators stake out spots along the route (Broad Street/Avenue of The Arts) and dance along with the passing performers. Oh Dem Golden Slippers is the anthem. It's like an 'ethnic' Philadelphia song played at ALL local weddings, every group, every price point. And we all dance the 'Mummers' Strut' (a cake walk)  too. Think Philadelphia tarantella or hora. 

If I didn't already say so, the string bands start appearing about one o'clock, maybe later and continue passed dark. Fancy divisions (even MORE elaborate) perform in an adjacent convention facility. Shows are 12PM and 5PM. 

String bands are a big part of local culture throughout the Philadelphia/South Jersey area and perform at Atlantic City's Miss America Parade too.

Decent food trucks will be scattered along the route and there're plenty of hotels to duck into for pee-pee breaks, restaurants too. 

For more information google The Philadelphia Mummers Museum. A unique event and very much like what you'd find in Europe. If you've been to Belgium or France or Germany, you know.

The hot, fresh, salty, soft pretzels sold along the route are good too.

Oh, and if you want a taste of the macabre (this IS Vampire Wonderland, after all) duck into the Philadelphia City Hall courtyard (exactly like a Flemish castle). Find the brass compass rose inlaid at the center ('X' marks the spot). It's where the public gallows used to be til 1876.... So many ghosts you'll be greasy with ectoplasm. You can't miss it... Right across the street from where they bands perform.

For more google The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors' Bureau.

Our main vampire, Tomas, wanted me to tell you all this, 'cause he's a proud Philadelphian. Vampires tend to be quite attached to their territories. It's true. If you want to learn about a city, ask the vampires.

Good night and may The Season of Miracles be bright for you and yours...... If you want to browse through our more than 1,360 posts, click on this~> I WANT TO BROWSE .... or join us on Twitter via ~>WHERE BILLY SITS ON TWITTER ... your COMMENTS are very welcome too. 

Now right below is the MUMMERS' video. I hope you like it.

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