|History of Italy
Little Italy: New York -Feast of San Gennaro
In New York, no feast compares to the size and scope of San Gennaro in Little Italy. Yes, Brooklyn has the and in - but neither are as famous or popular as San Gennaro. It is held every September and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Italian immigrants that settled in New York in great numbers during the 1880s- 1920s were predominately from southern Italy. In Italy, each city, town and province has a “patron saint.” It follows that the Italians that settled in America brought with them their patron saints and feasts of adoration. San Gennaro is the Patron Saint of Napoli. Napolitani immigrants first celebrated the feast by stringing colored lights across the streets, and building a makeshift chapel to San Gennaro.
San Gennaro became a saint by having several miracles attributed to him. Vials of his blood survive to this day. When they are not in use, they are in a solid state. However, when they are brought out on the saint's feast days, the contents of the vials liquifies. This has happened almost year for nearly 700 years. There is no scientific explanation for this occurrence, and no means of reproducing the effect artificially. It is interesting to note that the two recorded times (in 700 years) that the blood did not liquify,. This is evidenced in the plague of 1527 and the earthquake of 1980.
Statues of San Gennaro, along with the vials of blood have also been used to ward off lava flows from Vesuvius that were headed towards Napoli. This has occurred several times in the past, and are credited miracles of San Gennaro.
The San Gennaro feast in Little Italy has been going on since 1926. The feast commences like many other Italian feasts- with a mass and procession of the saint's statue down the streets. After the procession, the statue comes to rest at the Church of the Most Precious Blood, which was built by Italian immigrants. (pictured right) It also features typical Italian feast food such as pizza, zeppole, sausage and pepper sandwiches. The main difference at this feast is that the Italian restaurants in Little Italy open up their own street sections, so that you can dine and watch the feast as well.