If you haven’t seen the Mummers Parade, you’re truly missing a special experience. This is an event where normal, everyday people with seemingly no talent will shock you with their … talent. And their energy, enthusiasm, and optimism. This is a full day of laughs, music, dance, and amazing teamwork. Yes, this is Philadelphia at its very best. There is nothing like it.
But you’ve never gone, have you? I get it. Up until I moved to Center City a few years ago, neither did I — and I’ve lived in the area my entire life. Sure, like you I would catch a few minutes of it on TV and say to myself “definitely next year.” But let’s face it: Dragging my ass, let alone the kids, out of bed on a freezing New Year’s Day — particularly after a very hot New Year’s Eve — takes too much effort. Plus, there’s laundry to do and toilets to clean before work and school starts. The shows at the Convention Center are great – but it’s not the same.
This has always been a big problem for the Mummers. But it’s a simple, fixable one. Just change the date of the parade from New Year’s Day to the first Saturday after New Year’s Day. Done.
Blasphemy? No, not really.
The parade has been held on New Year’s Day for 117 years. People will say you can’t change tradition. Well, times change. People change. Circumstances change. And traditions can change too. Particularly when a change would bring enormous benefits to the participants, to their fans, and to the city itself. What kinds of benefits?
For starters, let’s all agree that New Year’s Day sucks. People are hung over from the night before. 71.4 percent of the time it falls on a day before we have to return to work. Most businesses in town are closed. Many people are either away on vacation or just returning. Center City itself during the holidays becomes a very quiet place — just ask any resident who rejoices in the number of available parking spaces. The police and other city workers are paid – who knows – zintuple-time for their work. Worst of all, January 1st begins a dark period of cold winter days with few holidays and where the highlight in Pennsylvania is watching a Punxsutawney rodent come out of its hole only to remind us of more bleak days ahead. How depressing.
But wait … now there’s something we can really look forward to: the upcoming Mummers Weekend!
Knowing that the following weekend in Philadelphia after New Year’s is taken over by the Mummers would brighten us all. We could spend the day with the comics and string bands on Saturday, drink our faces off if we so please, and still have a full day afterward to recuperate. Restaurants and merchants are all back in operation, so there will be more places to shop and eat — and bathrooms to use. There could even be pre-events the night before that would not compete with those New Year’s Eve activities. It would make the event more family-friendly — a much-needed winter activity for the little ones — and less of a gathering of drunk revelers from the night before who at any moment could potentially vomit on … well … our little ones.
Think of how the city could benefit. Businesses would attract more customers who normally don’t venture into Center City to eat or shop. Overtime pay could be less. Without other parades and activities occurring as they do on New Year’s Day, new “Mummers” hotel packages would have little competition elsewhere. A Saturday Mummers event would likely attract more well-deserved national attention, which would mean more and bigger sponsors and, who knows, maybe even Mariah Carey will appear, assuming tea is provided. Selfishly, a business owner like me could count on seeing my employees — well, most of them — actually show up to work the following Monday.
All of this would ultimately generate more income for the city — and for the Mummers clubs. It would start a new chapter for the parade. So can we agree that although tradition is important, what’s even more important is survival — even growth? Changing the date of the Mummers Parade would ensure both. Trust me, people will get over it – particularly when there’s money to be made.