This year, like every year, Tim Luko, 58, a member of the Satin Slippers Fancy Brigade, paid a visit to the preserved body of St. John Neumann, the patron saint of Mummers, which is enshrined on the ground floor of St. Peter's Church at Fifth and Girard.

"It's overwhelming," he said moments after standing before the revered saint's 5-foot-2 body, encased in a glass casket.

Related stories

And never more so than Sunday, at the 29th annual Mummers Mass, during which his son, also named Tim, just back from Afghanistan, led a procession in which his son Tim, 5, gently placed a pair of golden slippers - a pair of spray-painted kids' Velcro sneakers, to be exact - on the gleaming marble altar.

It was a blockbuster service, with hundreds of Mummers in attendance, a baptism, the Mummers Chorus in the balcony, and the sounds of a five-piece string band from the Quaker City club echoing through the grand sanctuary. Two parasols, a Mummers costume, and a Mummers doll were also presented as offerings, and names of Mummers who died in 2011 were read.

The Quaker City guys, offered a prime place on the altar, played "When the Saints Go Marching In."

"Only in Philadelphia" doesn't even begin to get at it.

Mummers rarely fail to entertain - whether on Broad Street, under I-95 (where the Polish American String band and other groups rehearsed Sunday, serenading Target shoppers), on Two Street, where a local tradition known as Kazoo Sunday (and Hat, Soup and Pep Rally) broke out around 4 p.m., or - somewhat incongruously, but maybe not, in church.

"This was for the whole city to know they're practicing Catholics," Msgr. George Tomichek said. "They're family men, not just running down Broad Street."

Many acknowledged a year in which they hoped to put their best slipper and tenor sax forward, after being embarrassed by the October police raid of prostitutes at a party held at the Downtowners Club.

Mass seemed an excellent place to start. "Today was really special," said Richard Herron, who with Bill McIntyre started the tradition at St. Peter's, a spot where a more serpentine Mummers Parade used to pass.

"We have faith in each other," Herron said. "We'll do the right things, and the right things will come back at us."

Still, a public relations firm sent out news releases last week promising a fan- and family-friendly parade on Jan. 1, which this year will detour around the construction at Dilworth Plaza to a judging station at LOVE Park.

The Rev. Alfred Bradley, in his first Mummers Mass, compared the Mummers' role in welcoming the New Year with the church's welcome of 4-month-old MacKenzie Gordon, whose unusual baptism was greeted with "Baby Face" from the resident string band.

Her parents, Paul and Tanya Gordon, said they were honored. MacKenzie was invited to be present at all future Mummers Masses.

Later, the B. Love Strutters Brigade was one of several clubs that took to a spot under I-95 to rehearse. Chip Taylor was showing some newbies - Caitlyn Hagerty, 8; Alanna Hagerty, 10; Allison Fenska, 8; and Evan Fenska, 11 - how to strut. "It's all in the hands and drop your butt."

The music was "Shout," and some of the kids had been allowed to watch Animal House in preparation, which, it must be said, will help in many different ways to prepare them for New Year's Day.

Back in church, it was a profound feeling that enveloped Tim Luko, 35, his seven-month tour of duty with the Delaware Air National Guard still fresh.

"It's a really good reminder of home to be back in the arms of the Mummers," the brigade choreographer said.

And for those Mummers who may have strayed from the parade route in 2011, Bradley reminded the congregation the church will sponsor a 14-hour confession marathon beginning at 8 a.m. Friday.

Contact staff writer Amy S. Rosenberg at 215-854-2681, arosenberg@phillynews.com, or @amysrosenberg on Twitter.