"I will pay this debt with interest.”

Mummings' and 'disguisings' - collective names for many forms of processions, shows, and other entertainments, such as, among the upper classes, that precursor of the Elizabethan Mask in which a group of persons in disguise, invited or uninvited, attended a formal dancing party.

"The Mechanical man. George German, of the Lobster Club, was the human robot in the annual Mummers’ Parade today. He demonstrated the mechanical man of the future."

1936, Jan. 1.

From the George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Photograph collection:


The Mari Lwyd (Y Fari Lwyd) is an extremely old tradition within wales, dating back to at least the middle ages. Derived from worship of pre-christain gods, the horse is representative of the goddess Rhiannon. It is home version of the Saxon wassailing, to bring luck and no deaths within the year.

The idea is that, knocking on each door, the Mari and the home owner would recite poetry of eachother called a pwnco. The horse would try to win and if so would be allowed in the house and be given food. If the homeowner won, the horse would give thanks, luck and be on it’s way.

The mari lwyd consits of a mare’s skull, carved and decorated along with the eye sockets filled. Sometimes lights and sweet smelling herbs are placed inside to make it seem less frightening to the children. The man or women holding it is covered in a white cloth with ribbon or coloured cloth handing for the wind to pick up.

Will ye let the mummers in? Children with faces covered.


[muhm-er] noun

1. a person who wears a mask or fantastic costume while merrymaking or taking part in a pantomime, especially at Christmas and other festive seasons.

2. an actor, especially a pantomimist.

Dec 24, 1966, Newfoundland.

Date is date photos were published in Weekend Magazine. Photos accompany story written on mummers by Farley Mowat.

Credit: Bruce Moss/ Weekend Magazine/ Library and Archives Canada/ e002852713

(via Archives Search - Library and Archives Canada)

Fifty Things I Love About Philadelphia

I was feeling a little sad this morning, so I decided to make a list of something that would make me happy. Philadelphia makes me happy, so throughout the day I made a list of fifty things I love about Philadelphia, in no particular order. Here is my list:

  1. When I see Officer Johnson of the 22nd District of the Philadelphia Police Department patrolling the area around my work, and he greets me with handshake/hug followed by a “Wassup, baby boy?!” Officer Johnson is one of the nicest, most passionate people I’ve ever met. He truly loves this city and the job he does.
  2. Gazing at the Walnut Lane Bridge every morning on Lincoln Drive.
  3. Watching little kids wave to the gorillas at the Philadelphia Zoo
  4. Being in a city small enough that I can see people I know when I’m out and about
  5. The friendly razzing, as well as the free samples, that I receive from the guy who makes the sandwiches at Koch’s Deli on 43rd and Locust
  6. The vintage signs along South Broad Street
  7. All of the breathtaking murals throughout the city
  8. The sight of a full moon in Fairmount Park
  9. The man who plays the flute in the commons area of City Hall
  10. When people hold the door for me at the Wawa. This only seems to happen consistently at Wawa. It’s truly wonderful.
  11. Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale and India Pale Ale
  12. Saying hello to the Soap Lady at the Mutter Museum
  13. The old guys who hang out and tell jokes at Gooey Louie’s 
  14. The dancing crossing guard at 28th and Oxford.
  15. The graffiti wall at 5th and Cecil B. Moore
  16. The sweaty Austrian guy at Paesano’s on Girard Avenue who gives me free roasted potatoes if I bring him some beer
  17. Seeing the sunrise over the Sunoco refinery on my way to Philadelphia International Airport
  18. Rocking out to the Channel 6 Action News Theme
  19. The people-watching on SEPTA
  20. Tourists asking me where to get a good cheesesteak, and making sure they don’t go to Pat’s/Geno’s/Jim’s 
  21. Requesting a lager at any bar, and automatically getting a Yuengling 
  22. The Christmas Show at Wanamaker’s/Macy’s 
  23. The site of 44,000 rally towels during a Phillies playoff game
  24. The word “jawn”
  25. Philadelphians will be honest. For better or worse, they’ll be honest.
  26. The view of Boathouse Row from I-76
  27. The drumline that plays along Ridge Avenue near Strawberry Mansion High School once in a while
  28. Preston and Steve
  29. WXPN and World Cafe Live
  30. The art around the city done by Get Up
  31. Going for a run/bike ride along the Forbidden Trail of Fairmount Park
  32. It’s the home of Meek Mill
  33. The tightly compacted streets of South Philadelphia
  34. My dreams of rollerblading through Franklin Mills
  35. Maple bacon donuts and chili garlic chicken from Federal Donuts
  36. Seeing the illuminated skyline while driving over the Ben Franklin Bridge from Jersey
  37. Making snowmen in Rittenhouse Square
  38. The random trash bags on Jefferson Street that have Bible verses on them
  39. The Divine Lorraine
  40. The Beury Building (AKA the building with Boner Forever) written on it
  41. A large roast pork with spinach and sharp provolone from John’s Roast Pork
  42. Watching the string bands in the Mummers Parade
  43. Slurping a cherry/chocolate water ice from John’s on 7th and Christian on a hot summer day
  44. The Magic Garden
  45. The pride I take in working for the School District of Philadelphia
  46. The Monday Night buffet at Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse
  47. Eating a plate of Macho Nachos from El Vez, followed by a gelato from Capogiro
  48. Saturday afternoon walks through the Italian Market/Reading Terminal Market
  49. When Flyers fans booed Sarah Palin in 2008
  50. Being able to make this list knowing there are lots more items I left out, and more great things I can add in the future.


Now I feel better. Is there anything that you would personally add to this list?


Mummers Museum - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The first question people tend to have when they hear about the mummers museum is “what is a mummer?”

Imagine a roving group of drunken masked revelers, demanding food, drink, and a singing match: these are mummers.

The term “mummer” meaning a “disguised person” dates back to medieval times (and probably before, most mummery involves a mix of Christian and pagan traditions that go back to pre-Roman times) and references costumed performers of some kind, though it is unclear exactly what kind of performances mummers gave during these times. Connected with a type of folk play, the common aspect of mummery was the use of masks and elaborate disguises as well as generally rowdy performances. These “mummer plays” and associated customs spread throughout Europe gaining a slightly different tradition and meaning in each area.

In the late 1600s settlers from all over Europe, particularly from Sweden, began to settle in Philadelphia, and they brought with them their traditions of mummery. One of the traditions of the Swedes, almost all of whom carried firearms with them, was to “shoot in” the New Years, something we still associate with the holiday.

Known as the New Year’s Shooters and Mummers Association, the group would travel around during Christmas time, sing and be rewarded with food and drink. Mummery was essentially the drunker, rowdier, firearm carrying, masked, and pagan ritual infused precursor to Christmas carolers. It would be the Victorians (particularly Dickens and Washington Irving) who would transform the raucous mummers into the respectful Carolers we think of today, but not in Philadelphia. A common Philadelphia mummer chant went

Here we stand before your door, As we stood the year before; Give us whiskey; give us gin, Open the door and let us in. Or give us something nice and hot Like a steaming hot bowl of pepper pot.

For a full history of the mummers past and present, keep reading about The Mummers Museum on Atlas Obscura…