The History of San Gennaro Festival in New York City

by Samantha Palmer

In 1926, a handful of immigrants from Naples decided to continue a religious Italian tradition in their newly adopted city of New York and held a one-day feast to honor St. Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples. The feast was held in commemoration of the day that St. Gennaro was martyred in 305 A.D. Since then, the feast has grown into an exciting, colorful 11-day festival that incorporates the original religious message, with a celebration of all that is Italian in New York.

The San Gennaro Festival attracts more than a million people on an annual basis, that come together to enjoy the atmosphere created along Hester, Mulberrry and Grand Streets from noon to midnight. Each year on September 19th, a religious procession makes its way through the streets of Little Italy after Mass at Mulberry Street’s Most Precious Blood Church. During the festival, top Italian cuisine rubs shoulders with scrumptious street food and visitors can enjoy offerings by 35 of Little Italy’s most famous restaurants. Visitors can also enjoy Italian music and entertainment, as well as pick up some interesting souvenirs. Arcade games, street performances, carnival rides and other forms of entertainment keep the youngsters amused.

Since 1996, the festival has been run by the not-for-profit organization, Children of San Gennaro (Figli di San Gennaro) and for the past decade this group has donated more than $1.5-million to worthy causes in the city. In fact, the San Gennaro festival generates the most money for philanthropic causes than any other public festival. Many educational and welfare organizations in the five borough and tri-state areas are on the receiving end of substantial cash donations each year following the festival.

To find a hotel located near the Little Italy area, head to NewYorkJourney.com.

The next post will have information on this year’s celebrations.

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