The 86th Annual Feast of San Gennaro, New York City's longest-running, biggest and most revered religious outdoor festival, will take place Thursday, September 13 through Sunday, September 23, 2012, on the streets of historic Little Italy, the lower Manhattan neighborhood which served as the first home in America for hundreds of thousands of Italian immigrants seeking a better life in the early 20th century.
This year's Feast will have its 11th Annual Cannoli Eating Competition and Blessing of the Stands on Opening Day (Thursday, Sept. 13), a Celebratory Mass for San Gennaro in Most Precious Blood Church (followed by a Religious Procession with the Statue on Wednesday, September 19, a Grand Procession on Saturday, September 22, and a Blood Drive sponsored by Figli di San Gennaro, organizers of the Feast, and The Basilica of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, on Sunday, Sept. 23.
There will be various eating competitions, and live performances nightly on the Feast Performance Stage, including the annual Enrico Caruso Opera Night on Tuesday, September 18, live radio broadcasts on Saturday, Saturday, September 15 (WCBS-FM hosted by Joe Causi) and Saturday, September 22 (Sirius XM Satellite Radio, hosted by Bruce Morrow).
Presented annually since 1996 by Figli di San Gennaro, Inc. (Children of San Gennaro), a not-for-profit community organization dedicated to keeping alive the spirit and faith of the early Italian immigrants, this year's Feast is expected to once again attract more than one-million people from the four corners of the globe to the streets of Little Italy to celebrate the annual celebration of the Patron Saint of Naples – Saint Januarius.
Although this is an annual celebration of faith, the Feast of San Gennaro is known the world over for its festive atmosphere, an 11-day street festival featuring religious processions and colorful parades, free musical entertainment every evening, a wide variety of ethnic food delicacies, charming restaurants and cafes and even a world-famous cannoli-eating competition!
The central focus of the celebration takes place every September 19th, the official Saint Day when a celebratory Mass is held in Most Precious Blood Church, the National Sanctuary of San Gennaro, followed by a religious procession in which the Statue of San Gennaro is carried from its permanent home in the church through the streets of Little Italy.
"The Feast of San Gennaro holds a special place in the hearts of Italian people everywhere," says Joseph Mattone, President of Figli di San Gennaro, Inc. "It is a festive period of faith and redemption, a time for remembrance and reconciliation, and a time for celebration. The Feast brings the world to Little Italy and Little Italy to the world."
One of the most popular annual attractions in New York City, the Feast of San Gennaro features activities for the entire family that take place along Mulberry, Hester and Grand Streets, from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. (midnight on Fridays and Saturdays). The local streets are decorated with festive banners and arches in green, white and red, the colors of the Italian flag. More than 40 of Little Italy's most famous Italian restaurants, many of them landmarks, roll out the red carpet for Feast visitors, and many provide outdoor dining facilities for the event, offering a wide variety of Italian specialty foods and pastries. Some restaurants even have strolling musicians to entertain their customers.
The area's Italian restaurants and cafes obtain special city permits to serve Italian food delicacies, beer and wine at tables set up outside their establishments. More than 200 vendors operate stalls throughout the Feast selling Italian favorites as sausage and pepper sandwiches, zeppoles, calzones and gelatos, pizzas and pastas. There are also carnival games and rides.
Over 1-million visitors from all over the globe attend the Feast each year. The festivities include religious processions, parades, free musical entertainment nightly, food and cooking demos and a professional cannoli-eating contest.
The official Feast Day on Tuesday, Sept. 19, is celebrated with a Celebratory Mass at 5 PM in Most Precious Blood Church, 110 Baxter Street, with several church dignitaries in attendance. The Mass is followed immediately by a Religious Procession at 6 PM as the Statue of the Saint is carried through the streets of Little Italy.
Other highlights of this year's 86th Annual Feast of San Gennaro:
The 11th Annual Little Italy Cannoli Eating Competition on Thursday, Sept. 13, at 2 PM, featuring professional eaters in a competition sanctioned by the International Federation of Professional Eaters; The Blessing of the Stands on Opening Day, Thursday, September 13 at 6 PM, when clergy from Most Precious Blood Church walk through the Feast blessing the vendors and merchants; The Grand Procession on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 2 PM.