New Year’s Day Mummer’s Parade
New Year’s Day has always been marked by special celebrations and traditions. One of the most ancient ways of welcoming in the New Year was the Mummer’s Dance.
Mummers on Parade
Here in this picture a group of costumed Mummers parade down a street of Philadelphia on New Year’s Day, 1909. Throngs of people including many children have lined the streets to watch the mummers.
Traditional mummery (also called janneying) was a British in which people would dress in masks and disguises and visit the homes of neighbors incognito. They would be welcomed by the householders and there perform tricks, pantomimes, and songs. The hosts would attempt to guess the identity of their guests. Mummer’s costumes were often very elaborate, and sometimes scary looking.
Despite roots that may have gone back to Druid times, the practice nearly died out after 1861 when a law was passed making it illegal to wear a disguise in public, after a man was robbed and killed by assailants dressed as mummers. However vestiges of this practice survived in the England, Ireland, and parts of the United States and Canada.
Here are some close ups of the masks worn by these parading mummers.
The mummer in the center of the picture above appears to be carrying two fake mummers attached to a beam supported by his shoulders.
Another Closeup of Mummers
Above is a closeup of the mummers following the lead mummer with his scarecrow mummers hung over his shoulders. Note their elaborate head dresses.
Watching the Mummer’s Parade
Here is a moment in time from New Year’s Day 1909, an America that no longer exists. Note the Sunday Best clothes worn by the girls as they attentively watch the spectacle in front of them.
New York in 1900 was a city of immigrants, the gateway for immigration from Europe. Newcomers tended to settle in neighborhoods where they could preserve some of the customs and traditions of their homelands. So there were neighborhoods that were primarily Polish and east European, others that were primarily Italian. The lower east side was home to a predominantly Jewish population. Each of these cultures and nationalities contributed to the vibrant mosaic of New York City, but they also formed little cities within the great City.
Journey back in time today on this market day and browse the stalls. Look at the clothes and groceries for sale in this open air market that goes all the way down the street. Hunt for bargains and try to get the best deal on the latest gadget for the home, or delicacy. Imagine the vibrant sounds, the laughter of happy people, and the haggling of merchants and customers.
Look closely at this color photograph from 1900 and see the life of a great city flowing by:
A closeup showing greater detail of the street scene. We can make out the kids scampering around the stalls, the women in pretty dresses shopping for deals, and the well dressed men, all captured in a moment in time this beautiful day in 1900 New York.
Now look at the buildings on each side of the street. Some are finely constructed, while others seem run down. The housing conditions for new immigrants, in crowded, expensive New York were not always ideal.
View of the apartment buildings along the street. Colorful awnings and drapes can be seen.
So now it is time to end our tour of 1900 New York and this lovely market. I hope that you found what you were looking for.