More than 100 years ago, immigrants from Montefalcione brought Saint Anthony’s Feast to Boston’s North End, continuing their hometown’s veneration that dates to the 14th century. This year’s feast will be held from August 25-28.
Saint Anthony became the official patron saint of Montefalcione because of his protection during the 1688 Sannio Earthquake, which severely damaged many towns in the area that today comprises parts of the provinces of Avellino and Benevento. Local lore states that the residents of Montefalcione believed their town escaped unscathed because of Saint Anthony’s protection. Townspeople then began to campaign for Saint Anthony to be named town patron, and their request was granted in the second half of August in 1688. From that time on, Saint Anthony’s Feast was celebrated the last Sunday in August, along with a smaller feast in honor of Saint Lucy. The North End feast began in 1919.
According to Christian Guarino, the president of the Saint Anthony’s Feast Board of Directors, the feast is reflective of the culture that many Italian immigrants brought to the United States.
“Hundreds of thousands of poor European immigrants flooded the urban centers of the northeastern United States,” he said. “In Boston, these immigrants settled in the North End, bringing with them the customs and traditions that they celebrated in their homeland for centuries.”
Today, Saint Anthony’s Feast has become the largest Italian religious festival in New England and was even named the “Feast of All Feasts” by National Geographic. The magazine of Italian Food, Wine & Culture also said that the event is “a spectacle not to be missed.”
“The feast has it all for people of every age,” Guarino said. “There are parades, strolling singers, musical acts, contests, and religious services. There are Italian street foods available, too, from more than 100 pushcarts, offering items like arancini, sausage and peppers, quahogs, calamari, pizza, pasta and, of course, zeppole, cannoli and gelato.”
The highlight of Saint Anthony’s Feast is the 10-hour procession of the statue of Saint Anthony throughout the streets of the North End, accompanied by devotees, marching bands, and floats. At the end of the procession, Saint Anthony returns to his chapel as confetti and streamers cascade from rooftops.
Other events at the Feast include the Filippo Berio Culinary Pavilion, featuring cooking demonstrations and sampling from the North End and Boston’s most popular restaurants, and an open-air Mass in honor of Saint Anthony, including veneration of the relic of Saint Anthony and the distribution of blessed Saint Anthony Bread.
Guarino has also produced a documentary detailing the history of Saint Anthony’s Feast and the North End’s Montefalcionesi community:
For more information on Saint Anthony’s Feast, visit https://stanthonysfeast.com/