Joseph Mattone (President - Feast of San Gennaro)

La festa di San Gennaro e i tantissimi festival che celebrano l'Italia negli USA

Sep 10, 2013 3027 ITA ENG

Mr. Mattone, you are the head of the organization of the Feast of San Gennaro, which will take place in the original Little Italy in Manhattan from September 12 to September 22. Please tell us something about the history and the meaning of this event, which is actually the most popular among the hundreds of feasts and festivals that celebrate Italy in the US.

The Feast is a cultural and religious tribute to Italian Immigrants who arrived in the early 20th Century and settled into Little Italy. Through their hard work and determination, many of these immigrants found the opportunities they were in search of in the United States and were eventually able to leave the community and build a successful happy future for their children and grandchildren. Because Little Italy was the beginning for many Italo - Americans, there will always be a unique charm in this community and fond memories. The beautiful eateries and bakeries and quaint streets burst with old country charm, history and nostalgia making them proud of their heritage. The Feast of San Gennaro began in New York City in 1926 as a one-day street festa on Mulberry Street, the street in lower Manhattan which served as the home of thousands of Neapolitan immigrants who came to America in the early 20th Century.

How many people attend, and are they of any age? Do people from other States, or from Italy come to Little Italy specifically for the feast? What happens during the festival?

The San Gennaro Feast is known all over the world and hundreds of thousands of people attend. This year the event takes place from Thursday, September 12 through Sunday, September 22. New Yorkers and tourists alike celebrate by attending this eleven day event.  There are many ethnic food concession booths, charming restaurants, bakeries and musical entertainment daily. The feast is for young and old alike. September 19th is the official feast day. A Mass is held at the Most Precious Blood Church, the National Shrine of San Gennaro, which is followed by a procession where the Statue of San Gennaro is carried from the church through the streets of Little Italy. At the mass, it's announced the confirmation of the San Gennaro liquefaction of blood miracle earlier that day in Naples to assure the tranquility of Naples for another year.

Last year when I visited the Feast I was greeted by hundreds of people from Canada, many from Montreal.  I also met a group from Naples Italy who came to New York for the Feast and stayed for the duration.

San Gennaro is the Saint of Naples, but those who celebrate him in New York are not only from Naples, right? Besides, are there other San Gennaro Feasts around the US, linked to this one?

Although San Gennaro is the Saint of Naples, I believe it is a celebration of heritage for all Italian Americans. I believe that all New Yorkers, regardless of nationality or religion, enjoy the spirit of the feast and I also think there are smaller celebrations in other towns and cities throughout the country.

All these feasts celebrating Italy and its traditions are always religious events. Religion has always had a terrific importance in getting together the Italians in the US: in fact, it was religion and the celebration of the saints from the different Italian towns that got together in the first place those who came to America, at the beginning of the 20thcentury. Please tell us something about this fundamental factor of representation for the millions of Italian Americans in the past.

Although the feast has a party like atmosphere and feel, the main focus of the feast is to celebrate and pay homage to the Patron Saint of Naples. When the immigrants settled in the 1920’s in the Little Italy Section of New York City, they decided to keep the tradition alive here that is evidence of the high regard they placed on their native culture and religion.

Now the Italians are completely integrated among the other fellow Americans, decades has passed. Is religion – catholic religion, a different one from the majority of the Americans - still a strong factor in the Italian American community, today?

I do believe that Catholicism is very unique from other Religions in that older traditions are still in place. I think that this stems from the thousands of years of religious history in Rome and the Vatican, which was spread throughout the Roman Empire.

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