June 11, 2012

A Look at Belmont's Feast of Sant'Antonio (2012)

Viva Sant'Antonio!
By Giovanni di Napoli

This year's Feast of Sant'Antonio da Padova in the Bronx's Little Italy featured for the first time in almost a century its own 60-foot giglio. For those who don't know, the giglio is an ornately decorated towering spire built with wood and paper-mache in honor of a patron saint. The structure, along with a brass band, is lifted by a host of men called the paranza and carried through the streets. At various intervals the lifters perform what is known as "the dance of the giglio," where the obelisk is spun, bounced and swayed back and forth in time with the music.

The custom originated in the Southern Italian town of Nola during the fifth century in honor of San Paolino. Over the centuries neighboring towns in Campania have adopted similar practices for their own celebrations. In time, the immigrants from these towns carried over their traditions to the New World, most notably the Nolani who settled into Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Bruscianese in East Harlem, New York. 

The Bronx's giglio—painted red, white and blue—was adorned with effigies of Sant'Antonio, San Paolino, Padre Pio da Pietrelcina and the Madonna del Carmine. To the delight of the many spectators it was paraded around the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I had the great privilege of being invited to participate in the lift. It was my first time and was truly an exhilarating experience; one I won't soon forget. The giglio was surprisingly easier to carry than I thought, but I would be a liar if I didn't admit my shoulder was a little sore.

Arthur Avenue and 187th Street in the Bronx was definitely the place to be this weekend. The weather was great; the food was better and the giglio was rockin'!
This adorable little angel kicked-off the festivities with a terrific rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner
The Capo takes charge
Veterans and the next generation lift side-by-side
The Giglio Boys from Williamsburg, Brooklyn lend their support
A family affair: Father and son, Domenic and Anthony Varuzza, partake in the rite. They've been lifting together in Williamsburg for years. They even participated for Fantastic Team back in Nola.
A close-up of the gold giglio charm worn by the paranza from Brooklyn
Marching down 187th Street
Men working on the Giglio before the festivities
Photos by New York Scugnizzo