Feast of San Gennaro
The Feast of San Gennaro, originally a one-day religious commemoration, began in September 1926 when newly arrived immigrants from Naples congregated along Mulberry Street in the Little Italy section of New York City, to continue the tradition they had followed in Italy to celebrate San Gennaro, the Patron Saint of Naples. His feast day is September 19 in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church.
The immigrant families on Mulberry Street who started it all, a group of cafe owners, erected a small chapel in the street to house the image of their patron Saint. They invited all to partake of their wares, asking the devoted to pin an offering to the ribbon streamers that are hung from the statue's apron. This money was then distributed to the needy poor of the neighborhood. Over time, the festival expanded into an 11-day street fair organized and run by people outside the neighborhood. It is now an annual celebration of food and drink, frequented by tourists.
Centered on Mulberry Street, which is closed to traffic for the occasion, the festival generally features sausages, parades, street vendors, games, zeppole and other such attractions. The Grand Procession is held starting at 2 p.m. on the last Saturday of the feast, immediately after a celebratory Mass at the Church of the Most Precious Blood. This is a Roman Catholic candlelit procession in which the statue of San Gennaro is carried from its permanent home in the Most Precious Blood Church through the streets of Little Italy.
Another festival is held with the same attractions in New York City's other Little Italy, in the Fordham/Belmont community in the Bronx. The streets are closed to traffic, and the festivities begin early in the morning and proceed late into the night.
In 1994 Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani declared that if the city's San Gennaro festival did not remove corrupt elements, he would shut it down. Before Giuliani's ultimatum, financial improprieties and mafia involvement had been exposed. A community group to manage the festival had been formed. The municipal government asked it to hire a professional manager. It hired Mort Berkowitz to be the financial manager.
In 2002, Jimmy Kimmel, Adam Carolla, and Doug DeLuca founded the Feast of San Gennaro Los Angeles, which is now a major annual event held every September in Hollywood. Also, Tony Saca brought The Feast of San Gennaro to the Las Vegas Valley, Nevada, in 1986. The event started small in a park, but now due to its enormous success moved to larger grounds. It is held twice a year, once in the Spring—the 2011 Feast begins May 4, 2011—and in the Fall in September. The Las Vegas, Nevada, festival has traditional Italian cuisine, carnival rides and games, and entertainers such as Emilio Baglioni and Louie Prima's daughter, Lena Prima.
Similar festivals have also been sponsored in other U.S. major cities, the most recent being Belmar, New Jersey. The Feast of San Gennaro of the Jersey Shore was founded by Dr. Dan Di Cesare. Dr. Di Cesare's goal was to highlight the positive contributions Italian Americans have made.
In popular culture
- It was a crime scene on CSI: NY in the season 2 episode "Corporate Warriors".
- The Feast of San Gennaro was featured in The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III. In Part II it is during the religious procession associated with the festival that Vito stalks and assassinates Don Fanucci. In Part III, Vito's grandson Vincent "Vinnie" Mancini-Corleone assassinates rival Joey Zasa during the festival in public, causing widespread panic throughout Little Italy. A furious Michael Corleone orders that nothing like that ever be done again.
- It was also featured prominently in the 1973 movie Mean Streets.
- It is mentioned in the song "Sad Nights" by Blue Rodeo.
- In the episode The Ride (The Sopranos) Tony, Carmella, and several other members of the family attend a fictitious festival in Newark pattern after this feast. It is the Feast of Elzéar of Sabra which also has a connection with Naples and is celebrated on September 27.
- Brian Altano tells a story about the (few) differences between the New Jersey festival and the Italy festival on The Comedy Button podcast.
- On The Golden Girls, when the girls shared stories of how their children were conceived, Sophia Petrillo joyfully recalls how she and her husband Salvador attempted conception of Dorothy behind the sausage and pepper stand due to the excitement of the San Genarro's festivities, much to Dorothy's dismay.
Street Vendors selling cheesesteak sandwiches, sausages and other foods lines the streets
- "About San Gennaro". Feast of San Gennaro. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
- Tonelli, Bill. "Arrivederci, Little Italy". New York. September 27, 2004. p. 1. Retrieved on April 10, 2013.