"Oh, What a Night!"
By Ramona Flightner/ @ramonaflightner
I am going to take a break from writing about my adventures during my trip home to Montana to write about Boston for a few posts. It is Feast time in the North End, and the past weekend I attended my fourth Fisherman’s Feast. I am very lucky to have had a good friend living in an apartment directly across the street from the main stage.
Before I first attended the Fisherman’s feast, I thought the feasts were held as an excuse for a party. However, there is a reason behind each feast. I have only attended the Fisherman’s Feast, so I will not attempt to explain each feast in the North End. This feast celebrates the Madonna del Soccorso, the Patron Saint of the Sicilian fishermen, and they honor her each year with a four-day celebration filled with music, food, a traditional Catholic Mass in the square, and parading her around the streets. This tradition traveled to the United States and the North End with the large influx of immigrants at the early part of the 20th Century when the North End consisted of nearly 100% Italian immigrants. Each part of the North End had immigrants from different parts of Italy, and the area around North Street, with its easy access to the harbor and fishing boats, was mainly composed of Sicilian fishermen. The feast began in 1910 in the North End and is the longest running feast there. To open the feast, the virgin is brought to the waters of the Boston Harbor to bless the waters for all fishermen. To end the feast, after much delicious food and good music, there are the flying angels. I have never seen the flying angels, but I have heard that three young girls fly down (via a pulley) to the virgin amidst cheers and confetti.
As I entered the North End, a waft of garlic and anise hit me and I inhaled appreciatively. I love how different neighborhoods can have their own smell and this smell for me says “North End.” That evening, we wandered the streets that had been blocked off for pedestrian only traffic, looking at the various stalls, trying to decide what to eat. I generally get an Arancini (a rice ball with beef in the middle and red sauce poured over the top), and I opted for it again. It was delicious.
Then the main band, the Hit Men, started and they were fantastic. They had all been parts of various famous musical groups and played songs from those groups. They were charismatic and entertaining as well as wonderful musicians. We opted to watch the show from my friend’s windows and had a bird’s eye view of the crowd. I loved watching an elderly couple dance. Then, an elderly woman, who looked to be 80, called out her name “Maria” proudly, got up to dance and she danced for over an hour. She pulled much younger people from the crowd and kept dancing even when they tired and sat down. By the time they finished with their most famous song, “Oh What a Night,” everyone was dancing and having a wonderful time. It was a perfect summer night filled with good food, friends, music and people watching. If you have a chance to go to an Italian Feast, I’d recommend it.
© Ramona Flightner