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The Feast of San Gennaro in New York: the biggest Italian street fair outside of Italy?

This weekend New Yorkers celebrate the Feast of San Gennaro, an 11-day-long street fair now in its 92nd year. What is the Feast of San Gennaro, and how did it become so popular outside of Italy? The Local has you covered with this handy primer.

The Feast of San Gennaro in New York: the biggest Italian street fair outside of Italy?
Photo: littleny/Depositphotos

It’s that time of year again! #SanGennaro Festival in #LittleItaly, #NYC. @SanGennaroNYC pic.twitter.com/Lat0VEKgEp

Who was San Gennaro?

San Gennaro (sometimes called Saint Januarius in English) is the patron saint of Naples, martyred in AD 305 by the Emperor Diocletian for his Christian faith.

Legend holds that Gennaro, the Bishop of Benevento, was on his way to Pozzuoli to visit his friend Sissios in jail when he was intercepted by the emperor's forces and eventually beheaded, after an initial unsuccessful attempt to have him eaten by wild animals.

San Gennaro by Caravaggio
San Gennaro by Caravaggio

According to Catholic tradition, a pious woman named Eusebia collected the bishop's blood in two glass ampoules as it drained from his body.

First in 1389, and then on several occasions over the following centuries, it was reported that the blood had spontaneously liquefied inside the ampoules. The Church later declared the phenomenon a miracle.

Today the faithful gather three times a year in Naples – September 19, December 16, and the first Sunday in May – to witness the blood liquefy. A fast liquefaction process is considered a positive omen, while a lengthy process is inauspicious.

The Festa di San Gennaro in Naples
The Festa di San Gennaro in Naples. Photo: Fiore Silvestro Barbato/Flickr

When does the festival take place?

Neapolitans celebrate the Festa di San Gennaro on September 19, the day of Gennaro's martyrdom.

In New York City's Little Italy, however, Italian Americans celebrate the Feast of San Gennaro with an 11-day run of festivities which this year begins on September 13 and ends September 23.

What's the history behind the fair?

The first Feast of San Gennaro in New York was held in 1926 on Mulberry Street by newly arrived immigrants from Naples who wanted to continue their annual tradition of venerating their patron saint in their new home.

It was hugely popular among locals and has run annually ever since, expanding into a days-long street fair that holds claim to the title of New York's longest-running food festival.

The festival includes a celebratory mass at the Church of the Most Precious Blood, following which the statue of San Gennaro is carried in a procession through the streets of Little Italy.

What does the fair consist of?

As with all Italian festivals, food plays a major role in Feast of San Gennaro, with traditional Italian foods such as prosciutto, cannoli, sausages, and pizza all on abundant offer.

If you're feeling brave you can sign up for the famous cannoli-eating competition.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

Cannoli heaven #sangennarofestival

A post shared by Lopez (@davidlopezz10) on Sep 21, 2014 at 7:36pm PDT

This year's winner, Wayne Algenio, crammed in 33 cannoli in 10 minutes.

But food isn't the event's only attraction. There's also plenty of music and dancing.

Carnival games are also on offer…

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

???

A post shared by Ivanna C Majic (@icmajic) on Jul 8, 2016 at 10:09am PDT

And if you're feeling overwhelmed by the crowds you can always escape in a ferris wheel.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

@mellyreich bright light / night light/LITE BRIGHT!

A post shared by Jessica (@jessdg80) on Sep 20, 2014 at 6:07pm PDT

 

Have you been to the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy? Did we miss anything? Let us know!

FILM

‘No autographs, please’: Venice prepares for virus-safe film festival

The Venice Film Festival issued virus safety guidelines on Friday, as organisers hope the oldest such event in the world can maintain its international panache while remaining infection-free.

'No autographs, please': Venice prepares for virus-safe film festival
The British rock star Mick Jagger arrives by boat at the Lido in Venice during last year's festival. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
The 10-day festival that begins next month on the legendary Lido in Venice is likely to be one of the festival's most atypical, given the masks and social distancing necessitated by the lingering threat of coronavirus.
   
The Biennale di Venezia, as it is called in Italian, has taken on greater importance this year as film festivals across have the globe have cancelled, including Venice's main competitor, the glamorous Cannes Film Festival on the Cote d'Azur in France.
   
But recent spikes in coronavirus cases around Europe — including Italy — have raised the stakes for the festival, the first major international film event to be held in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
   
Festival organisers have already warned that the September 2-12 event will be a more scaled-down affair as thousands of filmmakers, actors, journalists and industry executives are unable to travel due to border restrictions.   
 
Still, the prestigious festival — now in its 77th year — will attract hundreds of journalists and a mostly European crowd of guests, including personalities such as Australian actress Cate Blanchett, president of the jury.
 
 
  • Those who arrive from outside Europe's Schengen area will have to submit results of a COVID-19 test just before their departure, organisers said, with a second test carried out in Venice. 
  • Thermoscanners will be set up at every entrance to the festival, with disinfecting liquid available in all screening rooms, halls and meeting points.
  • Masks are mandatory not only inside theatres but in all outdoor areas.
  • In a move sure to disappoint star-struck fans, the public will not be allowed on the sidelines of the red carpet, that much watched parade of fashion and finery, which will be reserved for photographers alone. 
  • Inside theatres, seats will be alternated to maintain one empty seat between filmgoers.
   
The Venice Film Festival is a point of reference for the world of culture and cinema where movies often go on to win Oscars at the Academy Awards in Hollywood the following year. 
   
This year, 18 films are in competition, for a total of 60 features in five different categories and 15 shorts.
   
Fifty countries are represented in the festival.
   
This year, festivals around the globe such as Cannes, Telluride and South by Southwest have been forced to cancel due to the coronavirus.
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