Photo of the Week: The Feast of San Gennaro


[Feast of San Gennaro], circa 1978, v2008.013.17; Lucille Fornasieri Gold photographs, 2008.013; Brooklyn Historical Society

If you missed this year’s Giglio Feast in Williamsburg as I did, there’s still the promise of the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy, pictured in the image above, circa 1978. There seems to be a certain amount of rivalry between these two Italian-American New York City street festivals, echoing the rivalry between Manhattan and Brooklyn. People loyal to the Giglio Feast are proud that it has a longer history than the Feast of San Gennaro. Brooklyn first celebrated the Giglio Feast in 1903, while the Feast of San Gennaro was first held in 1926. Loyalists of the Feast of San Gennaro instead emphasize that, while other Italian Saint festivals might have a longer pedigree, the Feast of San Gennaro is bigger.

Both feasts originated in New York as a result of the wave of Southern Italian immigration into New York City in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Feast of San Gennaro was started in Manhattan by immigrants from Naples, celebrating San Gennaro – the Patron Saint of Naples, while the Giglio Feast in Brooklyn was a way for immigrants from Nola, Italy, to celebrate San Paolino. Both of these feasts evolved from solemn, one-day long, religious, Italian traditions into longer, more boisterous Italian-American events with music and street food. While some people might want to debate which feast is better, I personally am not fussy. Regardless of the debate, I know that I will enjoy eating my weight in Italian sausage at the Feast of San Gennaro in a couple of weeks and I am excited…

For more images of Italian feast days in New York City, you might be interested in the Williamsburg Giglio Feast photographs (v1990.021), Our Lady of Mount Carmel Giglio Feast photographs (v1990.052), and Jim Kalett and Thomas Bello photographs of the Giglio Feast in Williamsburg (v1991.085).

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our new website here.  To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m.


Author: Halley Choiniere


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