Happy New Year…
It is a phrase that is said all over our country and other parts of the world at midnight on January 1st. New Year’s Eve is a big night in our culture. Most people are out celebrating or spending time with loved ones. However, if you head to South Philly, you’ll find that many homes are quiet and dark. Philadelphians know that the real celebration happens on New Year’s Day.
The Mummers parade.
The celebration begins bright and early as the first comic club struts down the street, continues through the fancies and string bands, moves into the Pennsylvania Convention Center for the brigades, and finishes on 2nd street. I’ve been asked by many friends from out of town to describe New Years Day in Philadelphia. I struggle to answer every time. How does one sum up 114 years of tradition, family, and city pride?
I can tell you this, when someone in Philadelphia wishes you a Happy New Year, it’s more than a greeting or pleasantry.
Happy New Year is a sincere wish for health and happiness in the coming year between friends. It is said with a hug and kiss instead of a handshake. It is said with excitement and anticipation.
For older generations it is a nod of remembrance to years past. It holds the honor and pride of telling stories of earlier New Year’s celebrations and the duty of keeping the traditions alive.
For younger generations it is a statement of hope, of promise for the future, and the responsibility to propel the New Year celebrations into the future.
For out-of-towners it is an invitation to join in our tradition, to experience our culture, and maybe even march down 2nd street.
For the mummers competing, “Happy New Year” is an expression of friendly competition and the knowledge that no matter what happens all clubs will celebrate their hard work when it is over.
I am not mummer by definition. I do not hold membership with a club nor do I wear a suit on New Year’s Day, but the spirit of this great tradition runs deep in me. My family has marched in the parade since the 1960s. The Mummers are my family. I have attended the parade for most of my life and I can tell you there is no better way to usher in the new year.
So the next time someone from the great city of Philadelphia wishes you a Happy New Year, know that is said with sincerity and years of tradition. A true wish for health and happiness in the coming year.