The Feast of Giglio was born in 1903 when immigrants from Nola, a town not far from Naples in Italy, arrived in Brooklyn, a neighbourhood of New York. Eager to celebrate their saint Paolino di Nola in a foreign land, they decided to pay him homage by dancing a Giglio and a boat in his honour in July. In the last 55 years a committee, together with the community of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, organizes the feast of Giglio. This year the Capo of the Giglio is a third-generation Italian American whose name is John Christopher. The singer is a local boy, Anthony Allocca, and the band is the Danny Vacchiano feast band (The giglio band). Every 8/10 years a new Giglio is made in a small shop near the church, thanks to the support of a collaborative committee, the Society of St. Paolino, led by Mark Masciolo. This Giglio is 21.5 feet high and it is located at Havemeyer Street at the intersection of North 8th street. The Giglio is a tower and it is a heavy structure weighing about 4 tons and 65 feet high. Originally, it was built in wood, until 1966 when the structure of the Giglio was made of metal. The front of the structure is made up of six pieces of papier-mache and polystyrene carved with saints, angels, flowers and drawings. On top of the Giglio there is San Paolino di Nola. The tower is anchored on a square platform, which is large enough to accommodate a band and a singer. The entire weight rests on four sturdy metal legs.
Below the platform, a row of seven equidistant metal poles (I-beams) protrudes at a length of four feet on each of the four sides. The boat is built in the same way and is crowded with young boys, who disguise with Arabic costumes. The only fixed location is in front of the church. The obelisk transported by Italian Americans, outside the church of Carmel make a twinning of both the boat and the Giglio, making them dance together. The Giglio and the boat are lulled with the notes of musical songs of the 20s and 50s of the last century, but also with recent songs of Nola, like “Preghiera e popolo”, “Fantasia” and with others of the Neapolitan tradition, like ” a tazza e café ” “Funiculì Funiculà”.
The festival usually begins the following week on 4th July and lasts 12 days, including the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which is on 16th July. During this period, there is a continuous celebration of religious activities in the church (daily masses, novenas and processions) and century-old activities in the streets (social events, food concessions, and games and possibilities). In addition to its socio-religious aspects, the feast generates revenue necessary for the sustenance of the Church of the Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. These donations are fundamental to sustain the church and to finance many programs supporting the Catholic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The SavioGroup staff would like to thank our friend and corporal John Perrone Jr. for his willingness in providing us with the right information and photos of the 2019 Feast program. We wish our American friends a wonderful celebration of traditions and folklore that it has always boasted.