Festival of San Gennaro
Being educated in a missionary school part of the time, I’m pretty much familiar with the array of saints. At least so I thought. Till I found out that the legions of towns and municipalities in Italy have their own patron saints! Prominent among them is San Gennaro who is the patron saint of Naples.
According to Catholic beliefs, San Gennaro was the bishop of Naples in the 3rd century AD, and became a martyr to his faith, being beheaded by Roman emperor Diocletian who persecuted Christian believers. According to the faithful, a vial of his blood kept in the Naples Cathedral turns back into liquid form on three days important to his history, every year.
Decorations of green, white and red, the colours of the Italian flag
The tradition of celebrating the feast of San Gennaro started in 1926, in Little Italy where the early immigrants from the country had first settled. Over a million people participate in the event every year.
Colourful parades, musical entertainment, and fun events like cannoli and pizza eating competitions are all part of the celebrations. And food, plenty of food, is of course the main focus of the feast. And the word ‘feast’ is not used loosely here… it is a real feast, with food and drink in abundance. More than 35 of the restaurants along Mulberry Street participate with extended temporary dining areas to accommodate the feast goers. This is in addition to 200+ street vendors lining Mulberry Street and selling varieties of Italian food, from the exotic to the mundane.
And of course, traffic along Mulberry Street is shut down for the duration of the feast.
Sausages, meatballs, calzones, pasta, and pizza… in all their varieties were present, but my attention was mainly towards the sweet side.
We sampled everything except the fried oreos. I have eaten fried oreos once earlier, around the time they first appeared. Would I eat them again? Maybe, if the alternative is death by starvation… Haha!
One Italian speciality going fast was torrone. It is a kind of candy made out of sugar and various nuts. The best way to describe their texture is to point to the hammers found in the stalls selling them!
Stuffed clams ready to go into the oven at a seafood stall…
Attractive cocktail containers that you can take with you. And what is more, it is free refills!
If you don’t really care for the cocktails, there are soft drinks.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable time will be yours, regardless of which day you go!