New Years Traditions: South Jersey Joins the Mummer’s, Among Others
Every one of us has some sort of a New Years tradition we follow – no matter how mundane or elaborate.
And we follow them for whatever reason. Maybe it’s to bring us good luck into the New Year; or maybe it’s just out of a habit that we don’t want to break.
Some of us – like my neighbors, my wife and myself, get together for Chinese food, have a few drinks, watch the ball drop at midnight, a few laughs with the Honeymooners on Channel 11, and then off to bed.
Whoop-dee-friggin’-doo! (You can tell we’re a load of laughs!)
Some others seem to go the extra mile.
The social networking site Badoo asked members to cast their votes to elect the world’s strangest and funniest New Year’s traditions. The locals in Talca, Chile came out in first place by a long shot in the “strangest” category with their custom of spending the night in a cemetery with their dead relatives.
Top 5 strangest customs
1. Spending the night in a cemetery in the company of dead loved ones (Talca, Chile)
2. Attempting to hear animals speaking, in the hopes of finding true happiness (Romania)
3. Striking the walls with bread to ward off evil spirits (Ireland)
4. Throwing furniture out the window (Johannesburg, South Africa)
5. Jumping into a frozen lake while carrying a tree trunk (Siberia, Russia)
One that’s always fascinated me was the traditional Mummers Parade through Center City Philadelphia and down Broad Street.
I remember one year watching a special on WHYY as to how the tradition started and how much elaborate planning went into not only the costumes, but the performances.
It actually brought tears to my eyes.
Mummers, and their march up Broad Street on New Year’s Day, have been a Philadelphia tradition for more than a century.
The fanfare and fantasy, though, is spreading across the Delaware River and into South Jersey.
South Philly and Fralinger string band captains estimate that 30 to 40 percent of their suited-up marching members are South Jersey-based musicians, with New Jerseyans taking on lead roles in fronting the bands, arranging music and developing shows that stop traffic in Center City.
As the clubs’ members start spilling over into the Garden State, the Mummers bloodlines — generations of musical fathers, sons and now daughters, too — are digging their sequined and feathered roots into South Jersey.
For most clubs, planning for this year’s 2014 Broad Street spectacle started in early January after a brief post-2013-parade breather.
Bob Griffiths, a Fralinger sax player. Said….“Some bands rehearse three times a week as crunch time comes on,” said “It takes a lot of time.”
Griffiths, of Sicklerville, plays alongside his son, a drummer, Bob Jr., of Washington Township.
Fralinger is going into the 2014 parade on a winning streak. The string band has taken first place in the string band division the last nine out of 11 years.
Quaker City, Ferko, and South Philly are Fralinger’s “biggest rivals,” said Griffiths, who got his start in 1980 in Garden State String Band, which no longer exists.
“We’re all friends, but on New Year’s Day, we’re in it to win it,” he said.
No matter what the weather. In fact, the one year I went to the Mummers Parade, the temperature that day must have been hovering around 70.
But everyone has a special tradition.
We used to eat sausage and broccoli rabe on the eve of the New Year – me thinking it was for good luck – but it could have just as well have been because it was the most convenient thing to make that day.
Some Southerners eat hog jowls and black eyed peas on New Years day – this according to my landlady down in Georgia, Miss Frances, who told me it brought you good luck the rest of the year.
Whatever! What’s yours if you have one, and do you feel it brings you good luck?