When The Saints Go Marching In

September 4, 2009

Are you going to the feast? That’s the question you’ll hear a lot from Italian-Americans who have kept the veneration of particular saints alive at big bash summer events known as “the feast”. They take place all across America where there are communities of Italians and Italian-Americans.

I just attended the feast of St. Anthony of Padua in Boston’s North End. Colorful street lights strung from end to end define the perimeter of the event, and people come from everywhere. Streets lined with food vendors selling sausage and pepper hoagies, fried dough, gelato, roasted nuts, and all kinds of other foods are just part of the festivities.

Entertainment fills the air in the form of musical bands and undiscovered (as yet) tenors belting out traditional Italian folk songs. Need a souvenir? There are all kinds of things from flags to scarves to refrigerator magnets to take home as a remembrance.

But, the climax of these feasts is the appeaerance of the saint or saints in whose honor all of this happens. In the case of St. Anthony of Padua, a solemn procession takes place with a statue of the saint carried through the streets by a team of strong armed men.

As they march past, would be saints and sinners, who have petitioned the saint for favors, pin dollar bills to his clothes, leaving him looking like he just won the Powerball. This money is donated to charities and to help maintain the feast.

Some saints are more popular than others, some I have never heard of, but one thing is certain: when they go marching in, their power is mesmerizing.

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