Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1876

First modern Mummers’ Parade

In honor of the American centennial, the first area-wide New Year’s Day Mummers’ Parade is held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Mummers’ celebrations in America date back to colonial times, when the boisterous Swedish custom of celebrating the end of the calendar year with noise making and shouting was combined with the tradition of the British mummery play. Reciting doggerel and receiving in return cakes and ale, groups of five to 20 people, their faces blackened, would march from home to home, shouting and discharging firearms into the air while burlesquing the English mummers’ play of St. George and the Dragon. Philadelphia, which had a sizable Swedish population, was the center of America’s mummers’ celebrations.

In 1790, Philadelphia became the capital of the United States, and President George Washington initiated a tradition of receiving “calls” from mummers at his mansion. In the early 19th century, the celebrations became so popular in Philadelphia that a city act was passed declaring that “masquerades, masquerade balls, and masked processions” were prohibited with threats of fine and imprisonment. While the celebrations were quieted, they did not cease, and when the law was abolished in the 1850s, there had been no reported convictions.

In celebration of the American centennial in 1876, what had been an uncoordinated group of neighborhood celebrations turned into an area-wide parade featuring various mummers’ clubs. In 1901, Philadelphia’s city government decided to sponsor the popular parade, and 42 fraternal organizations received permits to stage a parade in which prizes were awarded for costumes, music, and comic antics.

The Mummers’ Parade continues to be a popular Philadelphia tradition.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

New Year’s Day

In 45 B.C., New Year’s Day is celebrated on January 1 for the first time in history as the Julian calendar takes effect. Soon after becoming Roman dictator, Julius Caesar decided that the traditional Roman calendar was in dire need of reform. Introduced around the seventh century ...read more

Haitian independence proclaimed

Two months after his defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte’s colonial forces, Jean-Jacques Dessalines proclaims the independence of Saint-Domingue, renaming it Haiti after its original Arawak name. In 1791, a slave revolt erupted on the French colony, and Toussaint-Louverture, a former ...read more

Operation Sam Houston begins

Operation Sam Houston begins as a continuation of border surveillance operations in Pleiku and Kontum Provinces in the Central Highlands by units from the U.S. 4th and 25th Infantry Divisions. The purpose of the operation was to interdict the movement of North Vietnamese troops ...read more

Lincoln signs Emancipation Proclamation

On this day in 1863, Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation. Attempting to stitch together a nation mired in a bloody civil war, Abraham Lincoln made a last-ditch, but carefully calculated, decision regarding the institution of slavery in America. By the end of 1862, ...read more

E.M. Forster is born

British writer E.M. Forster is born on this day in London. Forster’s architect father died when he was two, and Forster was raised by his mother and a great-aunt in an old house called Rooksnest, which later became the model for the country estate portrayed in Howard’s End. ...read more

Mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line

On this day in 1781, 1,500 soldiers from the Pennsylvania Line–all 11 regiments under General Anthony Wayne’s command–insist that their three-year enlistments are expired, kill three officers in a drunken rage and abandon the Continental Army’s winter camp at Morristown, New ...read more

United Nations created

On this day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issue a declaration, signed by representatives of 26 countries, called the “United Nations.” The signatories of the declaration vowed to create an international postwar peacekeeping ...read more

British ship Formidable is torpedoed

In the early-morning hours of New Year’s Day, 1915, the 15,000-ton British HMS class battleship Formidable is torpedoed by the German submarine U-24 and sinks in the English Channel, killing 547 men. The Formidable was part of the 5th Battle Squadron unit serving with the ...read more

Batista forced out by Castro-led revolution

On this day in 1959, facing a popular revolution spearheaded by Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement, Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista flees the island nation. Amid celebration and chaos in the Cuban capitol of Havana, the U.S. debated how best to deal with the radical Castro and ...read more