This is about a subject near and dear to my heart. Every New Year's Day, many Philadelphia citizens participate in and enjoy as spectators the Mummers Parade, something most people living outside the area aren't familiar with.
The Mummers Parade is one of the oldest continuing folk traditions in the country. The Parade consists of people dressed in various kinds of multicolored and speckled costumes, very similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. There are four different divisions of Mummers: comics, fancies, string bands, and fancy brigades.
The comics are simply that: clown-like in nature, and usually spoofing some type of social or pop cultural trend. Fancies are individuals arrayed in extravagant costumes of different categories, usually with a theme to their outfit. String bands are large groups of musicians (between 46 and 64 members) who march in ornate comstumes while playing their respective instruments: saxophone, banjo, bass fiddle, and drums, creating a unique sound not heard anywhere else on the planet. Finally, the fancy brigades perform similarly to the string bands, but to popular recorded music of the times rather than their own live music.
I was a Mummer myself for several years, and I was and currently am very proud to have been a part of it.
What I've said here doesn't do justice to the tradition. The best thing I can do is offer some clips.
The band seen directly above, The Joseph A. Ferko String Band, is one of the most popular bands of all time. Here is the band's titular founder on the game show "I've Got A Secret" from 1963:
For more information on the Mummers, visit these online sources:
The Mummers Museum: http://www.mummersmuseum.com/
Official Mummers Web site: http://mummers.com/
WPHL-TV Channel 17, Philadelphia, the local station airing the Parade: http://www.myphl17.com/community/mummers/
Finally, this longtime Mummer sums up why this great tradition continues: