Fabled Feast of San Gennaro showcases rich traditions and new zeppole-eating contest [In-Depth]
There will be food, glorious food, as the annual Feast of San Gennaro honoring the patron saint of Naples kicks off in Little Italy. (Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner)
Come for the zeppole and stay for the traditions.
The fabled Feast of San Gennaro returns on Thursday and for 11 days, the clocks will wind back to a time when Little Italy was a major hub of Italian life in New York City.
There will be plenty of sausage and peppers, meatballs, cannoli and a new zeppole-eating contest.
Statues and tapestries each play roles in the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy. (Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner)
Looming large over it all is San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples.
Statues of the Third Century Catholic martyr, also known as Januarius the Bishop of Benevento, can be seen throughout the feast, during processions down Mulberry Street, at the shrine in the Church of the Most Precious Blood on Baxter Street and a chapel on the feast route.
“It’s in our blood, it’s in our family,” Danny Fratta, operator of the feast’s popular Danny on the Corner zeppole stand, whose deep family roots in the feast span four generations. “It’s very important to us to keep this tradition alive.”
Fratta, 39, is a member of Figli di San Gennaro, a non-profit group that organizes the feast. The celebration dates back to 1926 when Neopolitan immigrants wanted to continue the September 19 feast day observed back home.
Every year, thousands of people flock to Naples hoping to see the miracle of the saint’s blood, kept in vials, liquefy.
It was also a chance for new Italian immigrants to celebrate their heritage. After being told they would be relegated to worship in the basement of other churches, dominated by Irish Catholics, the community built its own church.
Louis Fontana, of Caffe Napoli, displays cannolis during a preview of preparations for the Feast of San Gennaro. (Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner)
Spaghetti putanesca and more Italian dishes are mainstays during this annual festival. (Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner)
Organizers Ernest Magliato, left, and Danny Fratta, who says it's "very important to us to keep this tradition alive." (Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner)
The festival lights are installed on Mulberry Street in preparation for the Feast of San Gennaro. (Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner)