A view of the San Gennaro Feast and people walking and enjoying the decorated street. A view of the San Gennaro Feast and people walking and enjoying the decorated street.

The Essence of San Gennaro Feast: 7 Highlights

The San Gennaro Feast is a Christian Italian American Festival that privileges Naples’s patron saint, Italy.

He was killed by execution, known as crucifixion, by the Roman Authorities in the year 30 C.E., but after his death, he rose back to life.

The cross of Jesus’ resurrection and death gave a tangible symbol in Christianity.

A Little about the San Gennaro Feast

The San Gennaro Feast is the festival and the annual feast of San, which citizens first celebrated in the United States on September 19, 1926.

It was marked by the immigrants from Naples of New York City and Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy section.

After immigration, they continued their tradition of celebrating the Patron Saint of Naples, Saint Januarius, which they observed in Italy. His celebration day is September 19 in the Roman Catholic Church’s Liturgical Calendar.  

The 94th annual San Gennaro feast is postponed till 2021. However, the Processions and the Solemn High Mass still took place on September 19, 2020.

They had taken place from Saturday, September 19, to Wednesday, September 30, 2020.

A royal-looking hall with big entrance and golden walls
Editorial credit: Maurizio De Mattei / Shutterstock

The charm of the streets is unmissable when vendors line up in long queues to sell food from Italy and different kinds of Souvenirs.

The Feast is presented and organized by a non-profit organization, the Figli di San Gennaro.

Things to Know about San Gennaro

1. History of San Gennaro

St. Januarius, or San Gennaro, the bishop of Benevento of the fourth century, is Naples’ patron saint in Italy. According to history, he survived after being thrown into the den of wild beasts and the fiery furnace.

But later, he was decapitated during Diocletian’s reign. Containing some of his blood, the people then brought his body to Naples with two vials.

On his death anniversary every year, the coagulated blood preserved since the time of San Gennaro in the Cathedral has been liquefied since 1389, which has also attracted a crowd to Naples.

The Feast is held during the last two weeks of September in Little Italy. Mainly, all the religious ceremonies that are stored in this Feast are completed on September 19.

Most of the church services are held on this day. Also, a famous procession carrying the statue of San Gennaro and the church through the streets is still held on that day.

This custom of celebrating this Italian San Gennaro feast has started spreading in other cities of the U.S. They are also held at different times in California, Virginia, Las Vegas, Reston, and Nevada.

2. Description of San Gennaro

A man cooking feasts in his food stall.
Source: Shutterstock

To house the patron saints’ image, some cafe owners erected a small chapel for the families who are immigrants on Mulberry Street to start the Feast. 

Later, the Feast expanded to 11 days to street fairs run and organized by the people outside the neighborhood. It was an annual honoring of food like sausage and pepper sandwiches and drinks, a significant tourist attraction.

Centralized on Mulberry Street, which is close to traffic for the occasion, the Feast has generally featured Street vendors, sausages, zeppole, parades, games, and other unique activities.

After the mass celebration at the church of the most precious blood, the grand procession was held at 2 p.m. at Feast last Sunday.

3. Corruption of San Gennaro feast

Rudy Giuliani, the Mayor of New York City, announced that if the corrupt elements from the city’s San Gennaro feast were not removed, he would have to shut down the festival.

Before his order, the mafia involvement and financial improprieties were exposed. Later, the municipal government ordered a professional manager for the community group formed to manage the Feast. Then, they hired Mort Berkowitz as the financial manager.

4. Other Locations of San Gennaro Feast

In Little Italy of New York City, other festivals are also held with the same attractions in the Belmont community in the Bronx.

The streets are close to traffic, where the feasts proceed till late at night, and they begin in the early morning. Different cities sponsor them; the most recent was Belmar, New Jersey.

It was founded in 2012 by Daniel Di Cesare, whose main aim was to highlight the positive contributions of Italian Americans.

A welcoming board of "Belmont Shore" beside a road and cars running.
Editorial credit: Chris Allan / Shutterstock

Jimmy Kimmel, Doug DeLuca, and Adam Carolla 2002 founded the San Gennaro Feast Los Angeles, which has now become the major event held every September in Hollywood.

In Las Vegas Valley, Nevada, the San Gennaro feast was brought by Tony Sacca in 1986.

The Feast was started from small in a park later; it succeeded to more extensive grounds it grasped twice in the year, in the fall and spring.

Nevada and Las Vegas have carnival rides, traditional cuisine, games, and entertainers such as Louis Prima’s daughter, Lena Prima, and Emilio Baglioni.  

The Mascio family formed the San Gennaro Fast Foundation in 2013 to bring the San Gennaro Fast to Seattle, WA.

In the second week of September, live music and food held the processional of the Saint Gennaro Statue. When Seattle’s Italians first arrived in Seattle, they arrived in the heart of Georgetown, WA, where these feasts are held.

5. Events

Here is the Italian festival that took place in the last festival to give an idea about the 94th San Gennaro’s Feast:

Day 1: From 5 pm, Johnny Mandolin and Friends take place. From 6 pm onwards to 7:30, the blessing of stands occurs, and from 7:30 ahead, it is the Free Pass.

Day 2: From 1 pm, it is the Annual Cannoli Eating contest, and from 7:30 pm, it is the La La Brooks and the Crystals that take place.

close up of a fresh italian cannoli held by hand
By: Paty Tessmann/Shutterstock

Day 3: From 2 p.m., the Grand Procession takes place. From 4 pm, the speech is delivered by Patron Steve Schirripa and the Live Radio Broadcast is done from 7 pm.

Day 4: The performance from Sassi Party starts at noon, and Gene Roberts’ band takes place from 7 pm.

Day 5: The food demonstration starts at 1 p.m., and the devotions begin at 7:30 p.m.

Day 6: The annual Zeppole Eating Competition occurs at 1 p.m., and the chicklets begin at 7:30 p.m.

Day 7: The Neopolitan concert starts at 2 pm, and the celebration of the patron saint’s Naples by solemn high mass begins at 6 pm.

Day 8: The demonstration of foods takes place from 1 pm, and the Vito and the Elegant begin at 7:30 pm.

Day 9: The annual meatball eating contest and Italian foods occur from 1 pm to 2 pm. From 2 p.m. onwards, the vocal Competition begins, and Just Friends starts at 7:30 p.m.

Day 10: The Blood donation with the Red Cross begins at 11:30 a.m. From 2 pm onwards, Mulberry Street- the show starts. The Jimmy Russo and the Flowers start at 4 pm. From 6:30 p.m., Jenna Esposito starts.

6. Doings in the Feast

Eating is the first thing one would probably want to do when they are at the San Gennaro Feast or any other time you visit Little Italy.

Before filling up on any cannoli and pizza, make sure to assess and lap what is there. However, street food is one of the best things in the San Gennaro feast. Still, you’d also want to sit at any restaurant.

In Mulberry Street, the highlight is the restaurants that offer many special menus for events. This is one of the most delicate chances to enjoy the feast’s atmosphere while just sitting down in a place. Do not let the desserts be missed.

Also, between desserts and delicious foods, you can try out your luck too. There are fantastic carnival games for the adults to try out their luck and rides for children to enjoy their company.

There are many religious processions taking place, which one would want, and the shops will all be open for visitors and residents. The vendors would sell many unique items like T-shirts and many other souvenirs.

A blurry image of a decorated street and stalls.
Photo by Meghna R on Unsplash

At this Feast, you will also find more details and information about the acts of music.

Here, many unique events take place, like the meatball eating contest and cooking demonstrations, which one would surely like to try and enjoy during the Feast.

7. Things to Remember

Before you go, make sure to make the most of the experience at the iconic Feast; it is delightful.

Most of the crowd visits the feast mainly in the evenings and on the weekends. So, if you want to avoid the crowd, it is advisable to go on a weekday.

If you are going with small children, navigating through the narrow streets is the easiest, only if they are wearing a carrier. But to keep track of bigger kids in a crowd.

Vendors of feasts are open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every weekday and until the midnights on Friday and Saturday for the San Gennaro Feast.

Bottom Line

Over the 11-day course of the San Gennaro Feast, the restaurants on the streets of Little Italy welcome visitors. 

Don’t forget to explore this feast for an amazing experience!

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