Monday, August 17, 2009

August mean Italian feasts

in the North End.

In my younger years, I spent many Sundays in August at these feasts. It made August more palatable. Sometimes Cape vacations were shortened or planned around these events, as uncles and aunts were generally a part of the planning. Now, they are teeming with tourists and families who bring the next generation back to the North End to be a part of their family's tradition.

Each summer weekend, beginning in June, a particular saint (St. Lucy, St. Rocco, St. Anthony) is feted with a procession of the statute. The more 'important' the saint to the Italian community, the larger the festival.

In those days it was The Roma Band that played while barefoot admirers, atoners, parishioners, march in quiet prayer behind the statue. The statue was hoisted on the shoulders of some of the male parishioners and parade throughout some of the major streets of the North End. People attached dollar bills, some decorated on strains of ribbon, and lower their contributions slowly down to the awaiting hands of the parade chaplains, who would drape the donation over the head of the statue, which the men dutifully and excruciatingly would lower for this offering. This parade of homage was the most sacred and generally took place on the Sunday of the weekend. But the feast generally began on Friday night in a carnival-type atmosphere with games, prizes, families gathering, and stalls of food vendors - unsurpassed with the quality of the Italian offerings - sausages and peppers, calamari, pizza, calzone, and of course, the incomparable Italian slush, and continued throughout the weekend.

The Fisherman's Feast was celebrated this past weekend. Began in 1911, it is the longest running festival of the 12 saints who are feted throughout the summer months in the North End. Our Lady of Help is taken from her place at the Fisherman's Club and placed in an outside chapel on North Street. There she resides until Sunday evening. The feast begins with the blessing over the ocean, the fishing waters, and culminates with the traditional 'Flight of the Angel'. A girl, previously chosen, dressed in the costume of an angel, is lowered from a third story window down to the saint, while confetti dances from the rooftops of spectators. I'm not sure why or how this tradition began, but it is still alive today.

Next weekend's feast, St. Anthony, is the most familiar, most crowded, and largest of all.

Photos courtesy of


Trekcapri said...

Hi Flygirl, how interesting to learn about the tradition of these wonderful Italian Feasts in August. What great memories you must have of them.

Thanks so much for sharing.

Annie said...

Great post and these festivals sound like so much fun. I was in NYC one time for the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy and it was a blast.

girasoli said...

I didn't realize there is a celebration every weekend. I can't believe I have never been to even one! Will have to try to make one the next time I return to Boston.