Friday, September 9, 2011


There are many feasts in September. Sometimes they're called festivals or street fairs, but to an Italian it's a "feast." That's why there's always so much food! ;)

This weekend we have the Hoboken Italian Festival. This is, I believe, a misnomer. It should be called The Feast of The Madonna of Molfetta, or The Feast of Madonna Dei Martiri (Madonna of the Martyrs). Here is the page explaining the origin of the festival. Whatever the story is, the pattern has remained the same since ancient times: Miraculous event happens or is petitioned, a celebration ensues, celebration is continued yearly ad infinitum! This is half the reason the Roman calendar gets so confusing- there are overlapping holidays and events!

Here is an excerpt from the Italian web site for this Madonna, explaining it:

7, 8, 9 September - Exhibition and festival at sea
The festival at sea, commonly called the festival of M├ędonn coincides with the exhibition of Molfetta, granted in 1395 by King Ladislas of Durazzo who actually granted eight days "free from taxes" September 8 to 15, decreased during the centuries to the current 3 days. Opportunity for profitable trade for centuries, especially of animals and artifacts of the place, has now transformed into the celebration that we all know.
Since the beginning of the city of Molfetta, which has always characterized by a strong link between the navy and the Madonna of the Martyrs, was to reinforce this relationship by proclaiming the Madonna of the Martyrs protector of sailors.
On September 8, 1846 the statue was placed on two racks sailing and transported to the quay.
Thus began the tradition of the festival at sea, which is repeated every year with great concourse of people, including many emigrants who returned for the occasion from all over the world in his native country.

Basically, Italian immigrants from Molfetta settled in and around Hoboken and kept up the celebration of their homeland. I hope to make it to the festival at some point this weekend, especially for the traditional singers and dancers.

Next week starts the San Gennaro Feast in Little Italy. He is the patron of Naples. I have family from Naples who settled in Little Italy about 125 years ago, well before this feast was started. I feel no particular connection to that figure, but I do like the celebration! I will post more about that next week!

Tonight I'm prepping for a workshop I'm giving tomorrow on The Witchcraft of Italy. It's a quickie workshop, so I'm going to pare it down to the basics: Everything is Italian! There, now you can go home ;)

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