Williamsburg’s Famed Giglio Feast Going On Now Through July 19th
The San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy may be more famous (and bigger, and more jam-packed with sweaty people), but the great Feast of San Paolino Di Nola in Williamsburg–otherwise known as the Giglio Feast–actually predates its Manhattan counterpart by some 40 years! Yup, ever since 1903, 128 years ago, the citizens of this Brooklyn neighborhood (which has obviously gone through numerous changes during that span) have gathered in the streets around the Our Lady of Mount Carmel church to, among other things which I'll get to in a moment, watch dozens of people physically lift and carry the gigantic, hand-carved, wooden Giglio AND the gigantic, hand-carved, wooden boat for a spectacle unlike any other in the city.
128th Giglio Feast Kicks Off in Williamsburg
The Giglio and the boat are, of course, symbols, recreating a joyous celebration in the streets of Nola, Italy, that occurred in the fourth century (circa 410 AD to be slightly more precise). It seems that the city's Bishop, named Paulino, had sacrificed himself to North African pirates in order to guarantee the safety of the people. Upon his return from imprisonment (I get kind of lost in the details of this part), Paulino was showered with lilies by the grateful citizenry. And so in Williamsburg, during the Giglio lifts (the first one is THIS SUNDAY, July 12), the tower represents Paulino covered in lilies, and the boat is the pirate vessel from which he escaped. But you don't have to know or care about any of this to have fun watching the procession, or "dance", of and between these two enormous structures, and marvel at the strength and passion of the men and women hauling them through the streets. The scheduled lifts happen on this Sunday morning, Wednesday night, and next Sunday, the 19th.
What To Expect at Giglio Feast
If you can't make to the Giglio Feast during lift days–and, frankly, it's a bit of madhouse then–there are plenty of other, albeit slightly more commonplace, reasons to get on the L train and come check it out. Really, this is like a mini-, more manageable San Gennaro, with all the fried dough, fried Oreos, fried sausage-and-peppers, pina coladas in crazy cups (which, if you ask in just the correct, discrete way, you can get topped off with actual rum, or so I've heard) you could ever want. There are also games that you can't win and even when you can win you get stuck bringing home some cheap awful plush thing. And there are kiddie rides, like a "Festival Wheel", and flying hot air balloons, which must be safe, right? No matter what, there's lots of great people-watching, and music and lights, and you can light prayer candles and pin money on the Saint Paulino statue outside the OLMC church itself.
For More Information on the Giglio Feast
The Giglio Feast runs through Sunday, July 19th, and is located on the streets in front of and near Our Lady of Mount Carmel, at 275 N 8th Street in Brooklyn. If you take the L to Lorimer, or the G to Metropolitan, which are about three blocks away.