Maria Santissima Lauretana fest, held in Niles, marks 400 years since origin in Italy

Sep 06, 2023 206

BY: Karie Angell Luc

As the 123rd annual Feast of Maria Santissima Lauretana got underway in Niles Friday, the Sicilian Band of Chicago played and marched down the festival midway, stopping before an elaborately decorated shrine tent. The band serenaded those inside, many sitting in front of large stands of red flowers, others lighting candles and still others lined up to pray before a holy painting of Maria Santissima Lauretana, a name for the Catholic Virgin Mary.

The festival and religious observation is celebrated by people in the area of Altavilla Milicia, Sicily. The Feast of Maria Santissima Lauretana is one of Chicago’s largest and longest-running Italian festivals and features food, vendors, entertainment, rides, processions and the renowned ‘Flight of the Angels,” an old-country tradition in which two little girls dressed as angels “fly” out over the crowd via a rope and pulley system and recite prayers.

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