Feast of San Gennaro

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Saint Gennaro, bishop and martyr, by Caravaggio

The Feast of San Gennaro (in Italian: Festa di San Gennaro), also known as San Gennaro Festival, is a Neapolitan and Italian-American festival dedicated to Saint Januarius, the patron saint of Naples and Little Italy, New York.[1]

His feast is celebrated on 19 September in the calendar of the Catholic Church.[a][3][4]

In the United States, the "Festa of San Gennaro" is also a highlight of the year for New York's Little Italy, with the saint's polychrome statue carried through the middle of a street fair stretching for blocks.

In Italy[edit]

San Gennaro procession in Naples, 1631

In Naples and neighboring areas, an annual celebration and feast of faith held is over the course of three days, commemorating Saint Gennaro. Throughout the festival, parades, religious processions and musical entertainment are featured.[5][6]

In the United States[edit]

Little Italy, New York[edit]

Looking north at Mulberry Street during the 2014 festival. To the right the Little Italy Bakery can be seen constructing what became the world's largest cannolo.

The festival was first celebrated in the United States in September 1926, when immigrants from Naples congregated along Mulberry Street in the Little Italy section of Manhattan in New York City to continue the tradition they had followed in Italy to celebrate Saint Januarius, the Patron Saint of Naples.

The immigrant families on Mulberry Street who started the feast, 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. Originally a one-day religious commemoration, 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, and a major tourist attraction.

Centered on Mulberry Street, which is closed to traffic for the occasion, the festival generally features sausages, zeppole, street vendors, games, parades 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.

Corruption[edit]

In 1994, following the exposure of financial improprieties and mafia involvement, New York City Mayor 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. A community group was formed to manage the festival. The municipal government asked it to hire a professional manager. It hired Mort Berkowitz to be the financial manager.[7]

Other locations[edit]

Similar festivals have also been sponsored in other cities, the most recent being Belmar, New Jersey. The Feast of San Gennaro of the Jersey Shore was founded in 2012 by Daniel Di Cesare, whose goal was to highlight the positive contributions of Italian Americans.[8]

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 Sacca brought The Feast of San Gennaro to the Las Vegas Valley, Nevada, in 1986. The event started small in a park, but due to its success moved to larger grounds. It is held twice a year, in the Spring and Fall.[9] The Las Vegas, Nevada, festival has traditional Italian cuisine, carnival rides and games, and entertainers such as Emilio Baglioni and Louis Prima's daughter, Lena Prima.


In 2011 Hampton Bays (Long Island) New York started their San Gennaro. It has since grown rapidly to become the largest San Gennaro Feast on Long Island, in fact, in New York State, onlt the Little Italy Feast is larger. Though the Hampton Bays San Gennaro took a hiatus for COVID concerns, it is scheduled to return in 2022. Held the third weekend in September, the Hampton Bays Feast of San Gennaro draws a huge crowd, with live bands, raffles and prizes, and vendors selling food and drink.

In 2013, The San Gennaro Foundation Seattle was formed by the Mascio family to bring the San Gennaro Festival to Seattle, WA. Held the second week of September, it includes the processional of the San Gennaro statue, live music and food. This three day festival is held in the heart of Georgetown, WA, where many of Seattle's Italian community settled when they first arrived in Seattle.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In The Godfather Part III, Vincent Corleone assassinates Joey Zasa at the festa.
  • It was a crime scene on CSI: NY in the season 2 episode "Corporate Warriors".
  • It was also featured prominently in the 1973 movie Mean Streets.
  • It is mentioned in the song "Sad Nights" by Blue Rodeo.
  • In "The Ride" (Season 6 Episode 9 of The Sopranos) Tony, Carmela, and several other members of the family attend a fictitious festival in Newark patterned 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 Italian festival in The GameSpy Debriefings episode 158.
  • 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 Gennaro's festivities, much to Dorothy's dismay.
  • On Laverne & Shirley, the two-part season 4 opener has the characters travelling to New York to attend the festival.
  • In the Marvel: Avengers Alliance game, magic has brought the statue of San Gennaro to life, and a hero can be sent to fight it.
  • On Family Guy: season 15 episode 2. When the Griffin family goes to the feast of San Gennaro.
  • On Billions (TV series) Season 4 episode 2, Charles Rhodes is endorsed by the police commissioner, Richie Sansome making it known he is running for Attorney General of New York.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In the 1498 Roman martyrology, his martyrdom took place on the thirteenth day before the kalends of October, that is September 19th.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "San Gennaro – The Patron Saint of Naples and Little Italy, NYC". Archived from the original on Feb 25, 2009.
  2. ^ J. O'Connell, "The Roman Martyrology" [London 1962] s.v. September 19.
  3. ^ "Martyrologium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7).
  4. ^ "About San Gennaro". Feast of San Gennaro. Archived from the original on 15 January 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  5. ^ Napoli, Comune di. "Comune di Napoli – Il ritorno della Festa di San Gennaro". comune.napoli.it. Archived from the original on 4 November 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  6. ^ "san-gennaro". san-gennaro. Archived from the original on 3 November 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  7. ^ Tonelli, Bill. "Arrivederci, Little Italy". New York. September 27, 2004. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
  8. ^ "The Feast of San Gennaro at the Jersey Shore comes to Belmar" (Press release). Borough of Belmar. September 8, 2012.
  9. ^ San Gennaro Feast of Las Vegas. Retrieved May 10, 2016.

External links[edit]