For 11 days every September New York City's Little Italy transforms itself into a all-out street festival named the Annual Feast of San Gennaro. Originally a religious ceremony for the Patron Saint of Naples, it is now a fun-filled attraction for everybody. You'll find Italian food everywhere. There is non-stop entertainment and parades and games on the street. Everyone is in a good mood. This year's celebration will occur from September 12 - 22, 2019.
The day was first celebrated in New York City on Sept. 19, 1926, by newly arrived immigrants from Naples. The Feast of San Gennaro was a traditional celebration in Naples for St. Gennaro, who was martyred for the faith in the year 305. Immigrants who settled along Mulberry Street in the Little Italy section of Lower Manhattan continued their traditional celebration after they moved to America.
The festival is celebrated much of the same way it was almost 100 years ago, especially on September 19th, the most religious day. There is a celebratory mass at Shrine Church of the Most Precious Blood on Mulberry Street (It is the National Shrine Church of San Gennaro.) The statue of San Gennaro is carried from the church through the streets of Little Italy in a procession that follows the Mass. During the rest of the festival, you'll find parades, live music daily, and an abundance of ethnic foods to try.
The Feast of San Gennaro attracts as many as 1 million people to Little Italy each year.
Getting to the Feast of San Gennaro
The Feast runs along Mulberry Street between Canal Street on the south and Houston Street on the north. It takes place east to west on Grand and Hester streets between Mott and Baxter streets.
The best way to arrive to the feast is by public transportation. The closest subways to the Feast of San Gennaro are the 6 to Spring Street and the N/R to Prince Street.
Consider taking a taxi or an Uber instead of driving a car. There are few places to park, and you might spend all day driving in circles looking for a spot.
Things to Do at the Feast of San Gennaro
- Have lunch or dinner at one of Little Italy's restaurants
- Watch one of the processions
- Listen to the musical performances every night from 7 to 9:30 p.m. on the Festival Stage at the corner of Grand and Mott streets
- Try your luck at the many carnival games
- Eat traditional San Gennaro Festival foods from street vendors along Mulberry Street. Don't miss Zeppole, which is fried dough with powdered sugar. If you have a sweet tooth go for the Mostaccioli Ripieni, an Italian chocolate cookies with fruit and nuts inside. If you want savory try Pork Braciole, thinly pounded pork rolled up with garlic, cheese, pepper, and oregano inside. Sausage with peppers is also a popular treat.
Know Before You Go
- Crowds tend to be biggest on weekends and in the evening. Go on a weekday if you want to avoid them.
- If you're bringing small children, you will find it easiest to navigate the narrow streets if you wear them in a carrier, but a stroller is a good idea if you're worried about keeping track of bigger kids in the crowd.
- Take some time to assess the various vendors and what you'd like to eat -- you'll be full before you reach the next stand if you don't pace yourself.
- Festival vendors are open from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.)