The other night I was supposed to be meeting a friend at a Japanese fashion showcase in the Lower East Side for Fashion Week when I passed Mulberry street and suddenly I saw red, white and green lights and smelled the delicious aroma of sizzling meat and fried foods. I looked to my right and HOLY CR—– sorry, che sorpresa! It was the Feast of San Gennaro! (It’s a religious festival so out of respect I’ll try not to blaspheme seeing as insulting religion can result in horrible consequences…thank you red neck idiot who made that porn-acting quality anti-Muslim film)
As someone who prides myself on being a born and raised New Yorker it was pretty ridiculous that I had never been to the Feast of San Gennaro. Basically every year since 1926 Italian immigrants have celebrated San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples whose feast day is Sept 19, by eating a shit ton of delicious foods on the streets of New York’s Little Italy. Over the years, despite Little Italy shrinking due to a take over by my peeps in Chinatown, the feast has grown immensely seeing over a million people during the course of its 11 day celebration. In the past 26 years, I have not been one of those 26 million people that have attended, which officially makes me less cool than the Godfather, the Sopranos and CSI: NY.
Anyway, I figured I could always indulge in Japanese fashion by routing my trip through Japan, so checking out San Gennaro it was. As motley of a crew as you would expect in the LES was walking around, from babies, to guidos (okay a lot of guidos ), to couples, teenagers, grand parents, etc, all checking out all the activities.
There were tons of food stalls selling zeppoles, cannolis, sausage and peppers, calamari, raw bar, gelato, paella, tacos (okay I guess we’re getting a little far from Italy at this point) and a crapload of other stuff including fan favorite, fried oreos.
There were also carnival games with their typical hecklers.
“Hey baby! Those pants fit you perfect. Don’t change a thing” – carnival game guy holla-ing at my girl in regards to her decision to wear see through lace pants with booty shorts
Beer/alcohol booths (sorry no drinking on the streets, unless you want to flask some rum into one of those non-alcoholic frozen yardstick drinks – which restrospectively would’ve been a pretty good idea…)
A ton of vendors selling whatever random street vendor items your little heart could desire, including festival paraphernalia, jewelry, scarves, clever t-shirts (‘I got your sausage right here!’ & ‘I survived and Italian mother’) and even some scary ass Mexican wrestling masks.
But in all the lights, and food and booze and novelties, it’s pretty easy to forget that this is in fact a cultural and religious festival but priests do bless the booths on opening day, there’s a religious procession during the day of San Gennaro, and of course you couldn’t appropriately celebrate Italian culture without a good canoli eating contest. The festival also does hold an annual blood drive in connection with The American Red Cross and has raised over a $1.5 million dollars over the past 10 years for local children’s charities. I took part in none of these religious or responsible things. Either way, I’m glad I got to check it out. Gotta knock off the New York bucket list before I start on the world one.