What’s A Mummer?

          If you plant an urban church you need to learn the local culture and traditions even if you never fully embrace them. In Philadelphia, among other things, we have the Mummers, cheesesteaks, hoagies (don’t you dare call them subs) and soft pretzels. And remember, when in Philly, you ask for soda, not pop. You ask for pop and people will think you are a weirdo. I've had to re-learn how to say water and radiator in order to fit in but they sound funny even to me after having been away for so many years. I still can't bring myself to say "beautiful" with a long "eee" for the "i."  Philly also has the famous Rocky statue near the Art Museum to commemorate Rocky Balboa’s run up the museum steps. Yo Rocky! Back to the Mummers. If you have to ask “what’s a Mummer,” let me enlighten you with some high culture.

          One of the highlights (or lowlights for some) of winter is the Mummers Parade on New Year's Day.  Mummers are a bunch of mostly white men (although women and non-whites have been admitted for several years), many slightly intoxicated it seems, who dress up in costumes and dance their way down Broad Street with banjos and saxophones galore. There are fancy brigades, comic clubs, string bands, and cross-dressing wenches (don't ask). These guys love their costumes and sequins but don't laugh at them. They might be the same guys who threw snowballs at Santa Claus at a sports event. I grew up in Philly so the Mummers Parade seems weird normal to me. My wife is from Michigan and thinks it strange especially when I do the Mummers strut. Sorry no YouTube to thrill you. All cities have their local traditions. But does anyone else have Mummers? Didn’t think so. Love the city. Learn the city. And if you can’t do the Mummers strut (or your wife won’t let you), at least now you know what a Mummer is. Next question: Can you sing the Mummers theme song “O Dem Golden Slippers?

3 Responses to “What’s A Mummer?”

  1. Reminds me of how Paul understood the Bacchalian parades of Ephesus and used them as a teaching opportunity to the church there.  "Be not drunk with wine . . . but be filled with the Spirit."  Not parading, prancing, and singing bawdy songs celebrating Bacchus, but "speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs . . . "  Do you use the Mummers parade as an opportunity to teach the children of God to abstain from such, but be filled with the Spirit, or do you take a different tack?  Wasn't sure from the article.

  2. Stan:

    For many Philadelphians who line the parade route it's just a parade with music and fancy costumes, a time where families come out and enjoy the day. It's one thing for some. Another for others to be sure – maybe like sporting events. My purpose in writing was neither to condemn or encourage participation but merely to point out local traditions that exist in all places of which church planters should be knowledgeable.


  3. Thanks, Steve, for the reply.  So, what is your position on the Mummer's Parade.  If it involves intoxication, cross-dressing, and bawdy dancing and music, do you teach separation from it?  I'm just trying to think like the church-planter Paul and sort through this.  I understand the article doesn't condemn or encourage, but just wondering what you, as pastor, say about this as it relates to the people that you shepherd and their sanctification.  Thanks for considering and grace to you!

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