There are various national traditions that may have contributed to what we know today as Philadelphia mummers. Early Swedish settlers celebrated during the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day visiting neighbors, partying, and firing guns in the air. For many years, mummers were known as “shooters” or “shooters and mummers.” Germans had similar celebrations where guns were fired. The English and Scots-Irish had a tradition of going house-to-house on New Year’s singing and “begging” for food, drink, money or other small gifts.
Quaker Philadelphia frowned on such celebrations. One of the first acts of the city assembly in 1682 was an ordinance prohibiting “stage plays, masks, and revels.” Elizabeth Sandwith Drinker complained in letters from 1798 to 1805 however, that the city did too little to control street carnivals on New Year’s. In 1808, an Anti-Masquerade Act was passed, and it was not repealed until 1859. The City of Philadelphia first actually sponsored the Mummers’ Parade in 1901.