Jan. 1 is a day when people are ready for new beginnings and resolutions. But in my neighborhood, people are ready for a party. Hosting a New Year's Day open house isn't something I realized I would be responsible for when I signed the lease for my cute little apartment three years ago. But my friends and family soon explained to me that it comes with the territory of living on Two Street.
I didn't know what to expect the first year. This party was a big deal for a rookie with high standards to live up to. I usually celebrated New Year's at my aunts' homes - and they pulled parties off like pros.
But my fears were put to rest early that first year. I knew the party was a success when I discovered a Pulitzer Prize winner passed out on my couch by mid-afternoon.
Generally, the day begins at 7 a.m. when the Wenches gather on Two Street wearing dresses and face paint. The starting point for the biggest Comic Brigade, Froggy Carr, just happens to be 25 steps from my apartment. On New Year's Day, the men (and some women) getting ready for the big march always stop in. My plan for the frog invasion is to have a hoagie tray ready. It makes me feel better to send them off to march on stomachs filled with something other than beer and blackberry brandy.
But on this day, a hoagie washed down with a beer is the breakfast of champions.
Every Jan. 2 I tell myself that I won't open my house on New Year's again. But 363 days later, there I am boiling 10 pounds of hot dogs, mixing 10 pounds of potato salad and pouring bag after bag of ice into a cooler on loan from the gentlemen at Froggy Carr that is big enough to fit a grown woman (don't ask).
Getting to see friends and family who you don't see very often is the best part of the day. You really never know who will show up or how long they will stay.
But hosting an open house on Two Street isn't for the faint of heart. The crowds can get out of control, strangers will walk in and help themselves to the food and booze, guests may use Crockpot lids as cymbals while dancing to the brass band marching by.
If the party appears to be getting out of hand, I enlist the help of a male friend or relative to play the role of bouncer. Sound excessive? On New Year's Day, just about anything goes - and that includes the line that people will cross for a cold beer and a bathroom.
The Mummers Parade has been a treasured Philadelphia tradition since 1901. A close second to the Broad Street tradition is the Two Street parade that follows the main event. I knew this day meant the world to all who participated, and that became abundantly clear in 2007, when the parade was postponed due to ugly weather.
The food was cooked, the beer was cold, the guests arrived, but there was no parade. But that didn't stop revelers from enjoying the day. Froggy Carr's band still played for a crowd that gathered in the yard of their clubhouse, which lifted everyone's spirits on a day God chose for rain. After the set, one of my guests spotted a band member outside and invited him in for a hotdog. He showed his appreciation by playing "Under the Boardwalk" on the trombone in the middle of my cramped living room, while people on the street peeked through the windows to watch.