Now that's Italian! We went to the Dancing of the Giglio (Italian for "lily") today in Williamsburg. I'm not Catholic (or even Christian), but I knew it was a good excuse to go to a pagan-ish rite with lots of hunky Italians. A lot of them were a bit heavy to be representing the male beauty of Italians, but there were plenty that made up for those slackers. It has happened every July for over 100 years, celebrating St. Paulinus of Nola (near Naples), a Roman-era bishop.
The Official Web Site explains the festival this way:
The story, which is passed on through the generations on both sides of the Atlantic, is that around 410 AD, North African pirates overran the town of Nola. In the chaos, Bishop Paolino was able to flee into the countryside with some of the children. Upon his return, Paolino learned, from a sobbing widow that many of the young men, her son included, had been abducted into slavery. Moved to compassion, Paolino offered himself in exchange for the boy and was ferried off, a prisoner of the brigands. While in North Africa, word of the courage and self-sacrifice of Paolino spread and became known to a certain Turkish sultan. Taken with the tale of altruism, the sultan intervened, negotiating for the freedom of this holy man. Through the sultan 's efforts, Paolino and his paesani, were freed.
Overjoyed by his safe return, the entire town greeted him carrying lilies, symbolic of love and purity.
That explains the man dressed as a Turk that I saw as we first arrived. I think my favorite part was when an announcer said (in a classic Brooklyn accent), "we're going to move it past the sausage stand over there now." The band on the giglio played the theme from "Rocky" during this part. The singer they had was great. He did a very impressive national anthem, plus "New York, New York".
It happens again next Sunday -- info from Time Out.
Here is a gallery of the photos I took. I just couldn't edit down any more!
Apparently there is also a documentary film about the festival, titled "Heaven Touches Brooklyn in July".
Here is one more good web site on the festival.