The Feast of San Gennaro (in Italian: Festa di San Gennaro) is an Italian-American festival. Originally a one-day religious commemoration, the festival was first celebrated in the United States in September 1926, when immigrants from Naples congregated along Mulberry Street in the Little Italy section of Manhattan in New York City to continue the tradition they had followed in Italy to celebrate Saint Januarius, the Patron Saint of Naples. His feast day is September 19 in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church.
The immigrant families on Mulberry Street who started the feast, a group of cafe owners, erected a small chapel in the street to house the image of their patron Saint. They invited all to partake of their wares, asking the devoted to pin an offering to the ribbon streamers that are hung from the statue's apron. This money was then distributed to the needy poor of the neighborhood. Over time, the festival expanded into an 11-day street fair organized and run by people outside the neighborhood. It is now an annual celebration of food and drink, and a major tourist attraction.
Centered on Mulberry Street, which is closed to traffic for the occasion, the festival generally features sausages, zeppole, street vendors, games, parades and other such attractions. The Grand Procession is held starting at 2 p.m. on the last Saturday of the feast, immediately after a celebratory Mass at the Church of the Most Precious Blood. This is a Roman Catholic candlelit procession in which the statue of San Gennaro is carried from its permanent home in the Most Precious Blood Church through the streets of Little Italy.
Another festival is held with the same attractions in New York City's other Little Italy, in the Fordham/Belmont community in the Bronx. The streets are closed to traffic, and the festivities begin early in the morning and proceed late into the night.
Similar festivals have also been sponsored in other cities, the most recent being Belmar, New Jersey. The Feast of San Gennaro of the Jersey Shore was founded in 2012 by Daniel Di Cesare, whose goal was to highlight the positive contributions of Italian Americans.
In 2002, Jimmy Kimmel, Adam Carolla, and Doug DeLuca founded the Feast of San Gennaro Los Angeles, which is now a major annual event held every September in Hollywood. Also, Tony Sacca brought The Feast of San Gennaro to the Las Vegas Valley, Nevada, in 1986. The event started small in a park, but due to its success moved to larger grounds. It is held twice a year, in the Spring and Fall. The Las Vegas, Nevada, festival has traditional Italian cuisine, carnival rides and games, and entertainers such as Emilio Baglioni and Louis Prima's daughter, Lena Prima.
In 2013, The San Gennaro Foundation Seattle was formed by the Mascio family to bring the San Gennaro Festival to Seattle, WA. Held the second week of September, it includes the processional of the Saint San Gennaro statue, live music and food. This three day festival is held in the heart of Georgetown, WA, where many of Seattle's Italian community settled when they first arrived in Seattle.
In 1994, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani declared that if the city's San Gennaro festival did not remove corrupt elements, he would shut it down. Before Giuliani's ultimatum, financial improprieties and mafia involvement had been exposed. A community group was formed to manage the festival. The municipal government asked it to hire a professional manager. It hired Mort Berkowitz to be the financial manager.
In popular culture
- In The Godfather Part II, Vito Corleone assassinates Don Fanucci at the festa
- In The Godfather Part III, Vincent Corleone assassinates Joey Zasa at the festa.
- It was a crime scene on CSI: NY in the season 2 episode "Corporate Warriors".
- It was also featured prominently in the 1973 movie Mean Streets.
- It is mentioned in the song "Sad Nights" by Blue Rodeo.
- In "The Ride" (Season 6 Episode 9 of The Sopranos) Tony, Carmela, and several other members of the family attend a fictitious festival in Newark patterned after this feast. It is the Feast of Elzéar of Sabra which also has a connection with Naples and is celebrated on September 27.
- Brian Altano tells a story about the (few) differences between the New Jersey festival and the Italian festival in The GameSpy Debriefings episode 158.
- On The Golden Girls, when the girls shared stories of how their children were conceived, Sophia Petrillo joyfully recalls how she and her husband Salvador attempted conception of Dorothy behind the sausage and pepper stand due to the excitement of the San Gennaro's festivities, much to Dorothy's dismay.
- On Laverne & Shirley, the two-part season 4 opener has the characters travelling to New York to attend the festival.
- In the Marvel: Avengers Alliance game, magic has brought the statue of San Gennaro to life, and a hero can be sent to fight it.
- On Family Guy: season 15 episode 2. When the Griffin family goes to the feast of San Gennaro.
- On Billions (TV series) Season 4 episode 2, Charles Rhodes is endorsed by the police commissioner, Richie Sansome making it known he is running for Attorney General of New York.
Street Vendors selling cheesesteak sandwiches, sausages and other foods lines the streets
- "About San Gennaro". Feast of San Gennaro. Archived from the original on 15 January 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
- "The Feast of San Gennaro at the Jersey Shore comes to Belmar" (Press release). Borough of Belmar. September 8, 2012.
- San Gennaro Feast of Las Vegas. Retrieved May 10, 2016.
- Tonelli, Bill. "Arrivederci, Little Italy". New York. September 27, 2004. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
- Official website
- "Feast of San Gennaro". Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 2007-08-20. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
- "San Gennaro Festival". Seattle.
- "Feast of San Gennaro". Photo walk. Flickr. Sep 2009.
- Midlin, Alex (April 15, 2007). "The Socks, the Sausage and the Snub". The New York Times. Archived from the original on Sep 6, 2013.
- "San Gennaro – The Patron Saint of Naples and Little Italy, NYC". Archived from the original on Feb 25, 2009.