THE FEAST OF SAN GENNARO
THE FEAST OF SAN GENNARO
The Feast of San Gennaro returns to NYC every September and is the cause of much boisterous celebration. This 11 days festival transforms Mulberry Street into a colorful and delicious street fair, celebrating Italian culture. Today, tourists and locals alike flock to the Feast of San Gennaro for delicious pastas, pizzas, and cannoli, and the origins are actually religious! Let’s explore the past, present, and future of the famous NYC Feast of San Gennaro.
Origin of San Gennaro
The origins of the Feast of San Gennaro can be traced as far back at 350 AD! The story goes that Emperor Diocletian had implemented a widespread persecution of Christian across the Roman Empire. Januarius I of Benevento (Januarius in Italian is Gennaro), the bishop Benevento, was arrested and condemned to death. His initial punishment was to be fed to bears, but the beasts refused to eat him. Januarius was then thrown into a furnace but miraculously survived unscathed! Finally, Januarius was beheaded and some of his blood was collected and put into sealed glass bottles. The blood eventually dried, but is said to occasionally liquify.
Januarius, known in Italy as Gennaro, became the patron saint of Naples. September 19th was declared his feast day in the Catholic Church. Neopolitans pray to him for protections for emergencies, such as plagues. As one can imagine, he gained special attention beginning in 2020!
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, tens of thousands of Italians immigrated to the United States. With them they brought their foods, arts, religions, languages, and traditions. Amongst these traditions was the annual celebration of the Feast of San Gennaro. In 1926, the Neapolitan immigrants decided to keep with the traditions of home and throw a block party to celebrate San Gennaro. The event was such a success it has continued every year since. Today, instead of being a 1-day religious festival, it is an 11-day annual highlight that features everything from opera concerts, to cannoli eating competitions, and provides fun for all!
What to Do at the Feast of San Gennaro
Events at the Feast of San Gennaro range from religious ceremonies to karaoke sing-offs. Every year the events will differ, and the best bit of advice is to visit sangennaronyc.org for the most up-to-date information.
Every year there is a grand procession honoring the Armed Forces. During this procession, Red Mike Festival Band accompanies the Statue of San Gennaro through the streets of Little Italy. You will frequently find floats, celebrities, and even antique cars making guest appearances at the grand procession.
On a more solemn note, there is also an annual Solemn High Mass celebrating San Gennaro. The mass takes place at the Shrine Church of the Most Precious Blood, where the statue of San Gennaro rests throughout the year.
For nearly 30 years years, there has been an annual Enrico Caruso opera night. This night features performances by famous Italian and Italian-American opera singers and their stirring renditions of Italian classics.
As you walk through the streets of Little Italy, you will find rides for the younger set, including a ferris wheel, and midway games with giant teddy bears waiting to be won.
Essentially, there is truly something for everyone through the 11-day NY Feast of San Gennaro.
What to Eat at the Feast of San Gennaro
The “feast” in the Feast of San Gennaro is certainly something New York City Italians take very seriously. Block after block of Mulberry Street is lined with restaurants and food vendors. Pasta cooked in giant wheels of cheese, pizza cooked in a coal-burning oven, cannoli, and gelato are found in abundance. Much of the food is traditionally Italian or Italian-American, but there are also some less traditional food at the NYC Feast of San Gennaro. For example, deep-fried oreo cookies and piña coladas.
Foodies will want to keep an eye-out for a food stand called Lucy’s. Lucy’s makes fluffy zeppoles covered in powdered sugar for your sweet tooth and warm gooey rice balls for the savory lovers. Lucy’s has several stands along Mulberry Street, all traced back to Lucy Spata. Lucy Spata is also credited with having started the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights tradition. She is a true NYC legend.
A favorite Italian-American treat is the rainbow cookie. A fun trivia fact is that the rainbow cookie seems to have originated in America. San Gennaro adds yet another twist with stands that deep fry rainbow cookies, taking their deliciousness to new heights.
Seafood-lovers and mob-history aficionados will want to make a stop at Umberto’s Clam House. While they have a stall that sells fried-oysters and clams, you might score a seat at the actual restaurant on Mulberry Street! This restaurant was a favorite of mafia leader “Matty the Horse.” On April 7, 1972, Joe Gallo was shot and killed while dining at Umberto’s Clam House. Tourists enjoy walking in these famous footsteps while dining on baked clams.
For delicious cannoli, swing by Ferrara Bakery and Pastry. This famous pasticceria opened in 1892, the same year that Ellis Island opened as the nation’s very first federal immigrant processing center. Recharge yourself by sitting in their two-story store, sipping on a cappuccino, and eating a delicious pastry.
Visit the Feast of San Gennaro, take fun photos, and then showcase them on the Welcome to Times Square Billboard! Visit www.timessquarebillboard.com to show how you can share your family memories in lights at the crossroads of the world!
We have the unbeatable price of $500 per day for your Billboard:
Option 1: Your 60 second video/photo will be shown, 60 seconds per hour 22 times a day.
Option 2: Your 30 second video/photo will be shown, twice an hour, 44 times a day.
Option 3: Your 15 second video/photo will be shown 4 times per hour 88 times per day.
Please let us know which option you would like to choose. Remember that we have a response time of 72 hours.