Before this morning if someone asked me about Mummers, I would say that it is a men's group that dresses up in funny costumes and has a parade. I would also guess that they do some charitable work as part of being members of this group.
Mary sent me this photo as she is in Philadelphia this weekend:
I looked up Mummers on Wikipedia and their own website, and their history is very complicated -- Being a Mummer goes back to the 17th century -- part of it is a Swedish tradition which somehow got melded with African-Americans as part of plantation life. What's odd is that even though it's African-American tradition, Mummers are almost exclusively white. In fact, they used to do black face, but no more.
I really hunted for any charity work -- like some Mummers hospital somewhere, but if there is, I couldn't find it. The entire purpose seems to be the yearly parade and dressing up like clowns.
What a can of worms -- I wanted to make sure I was being fair and went further into Google. It seems some bad Mummers have poisoned the waters with a local sex scandal two years ago involving prostitutes. Plus the parade seems to involve lots of alcohol with locals along the parade route complaining of drunks peeing in their yards. (I can appreciate this complaint based on my own experience with my neighborhood being the end point of the St Patrick's Day parade.) Mummers respond by talking about their charity work which seems mostly to be entertaining at hospitals and that sort of thing.
Another argument raging is who should pay for the police presence and other city expenses incurred by the parade. It's an interesting debate.