After eleven years in Philadelphia, I still don't exactly know. And I think that's what I like about it. I've read the Wikipedia page, I know it's not completely rooted in Philadelphia. But over time it's become uniquely Philadelphian.
I always have friends from DC or New York in for New Years, and every year one invariably asks, "What is this?" Well, it's not "kind of like Mardi Gras," it's not "kind of like Carnivale." It's just...the Mummers.
Unlike Rio or New Orleans, inherently Philadelphian institutions fly under the radar like our city itself. That's part of what makes Philadelphia such a wonderful city. The Mummers Parade hasn't become - and never will become - an insufferable New Years Even in Time's Square. Our history hasn't been tainted by commercialized nostalgia and annual obligations because Philadelphia is the national embodiment of the word "nostalgia." Nothing and everything is nostalgic about Philadelphia because we never severed ties with our history.
The Mummers aren't a hackneyed resurrection because they never left. Our history can't be exploited because we still live it. We're home to the nation's first Thanksgiving Day Parade (deal with it, New York). We are history, and whether that's evolved to become a Rocky Run or hoards of drunk locals parading through the streets in clown makeup or comical drag, it's beautiful. Keep it coming.