Saturday, September 16


The San Gennaro Festival, New York City

The famous San Gennaro festival, exemplifying that splendidly exuberant tackiness and compressed Italian identity that could only come out of the weird and wonderful pressure-cooker of the American melting pot, kicked off this last Thursday. I can smell the zeppole dough, the overpriced sausages and onions simmering, the never-ending procession of funnel-cake stands, all of it, as I walk to work from the subway stop. It's the sort of crazy, shiny, brightly-colored turn-your-brain-off fun that has a certain garish, wholesome simplicity to it in small doses, seasoned with a touch of the appealingly grotesque and, in the end, sanctified by the bright polychrome image of St. Januarius himself, the guardian of all that is popular and populist within the Catholic soul.

Though I do have to wonder--why does one festival require ten identical sausage-and-zeppole stands, two identical perfume-selling booths? Or, more to the point, are there any funnel-cake sellers left east of the Hudson who are not at Mulberry Street right now?

The Madonna in the forecourt of Precious Blood Church.

Modern-day firsfruits.

The saint of the day.

The properly Catholic way to celebrate.

Can Grande.

Cavallo piccolo.

Catholics love shiny things.

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