Celebrate Good Times, Come On! (North End Series, Part 3)

St. Anthony’s Feast in Boston’s North End culminated with an explosion of Italian pride.

While the Feast itself came to Boston by way of Montefalcione, there is no denying that this Feast has Beantown written all over it.

Following a Mass in Italian at the North End’s St. Leonard of Port Maurice Church, the statue of St. Anthony is brought to the streets for a 10-hour procession so as many people as possible can venerate this powerful saint. We were able to meet some of the Feast Bands who were preparing to walk with St. Anthony outside the church, all of whom were excited and looking forward to celebrating… while reminding us to be sure to be wearing good walking shoes and to stay hydrated!

St. Alfio’s Band of Lawrence, Massachusetts, gets ready to perform outside of St. Leonard of Port Maurice Church

Our vantage point was on Salem Street, where we had drinks at Libertine, grabbed treats at Bova’s, and shopped at I AM Books. I AM Books is very near and dear to my heart, as owner Nicola Orichuia is not only a dear friend, but also a major supporter of my work. It was a thrill to see my books still for sale in their new location on Salem Street, and even more exciting to have an impromptu signing when the staff overheard me showing Sean my books on the shelf! The best part of the visit to I AM Books was not seeing my work, however—it was seeing Anthony V. Riccio’s “From Italy to the North End” having pride of place on a main shelf dedicated to the North End. Even though our community sadly lost him at the beginning of this year, his spirit and memory live on, and it was especially fitting to see his book on the North End’s big day.

The Salem High School Marching Band was one of the many Feast Bands we got to see perform.

From our seats at Libertine, we were able to watch a few Feast Bands perform, as well as meet other Bostonians. I noticed someone wearing a Harley-Davidson T-shirt from Avellino in the crowd and tried but failed to get a picture. Despite being across the ocean, Irpinia was present on this special day, and I couldn’t help but smile.

All the Feast Bands were incredible, and each one brought its own unique flavor to the party. Below is a clip of one of the bands performing Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” on the corner of Salem and Prince streets:

We hung around Libertine until mid-afternoon but, unfortunately, had to leave to get home to Pennsylvania, which is a 5-hour drive from Boston. Before we hit the road, we got into conversation with the manager of Libertine, who explained that the procession stops at almost every business in the North End. Many of these businesses—Libertine included—have sashes for St. Anthony where customers can pin monetary donations, and the procession stops to pick up the sashes and place them on the statue. The manager said he’s never sure when the procession will arrive, but he was ready and looking forward to it because “There’s no other day like it in the North End.”

As we were driving away from the North End, we yelled “Viva Sant’Antonio” out the window as the sea of green, white, and red got smaller and smaller. It was a wonderful weekend to be Italian, and a wonderful weekend to celebrate Irpinian heritage. The North End’s Italian community is now a part of our extended family, we will be back, we will always come back.

Click here to read Part 1 of this series.

Click here to read Part 2 of this series.

Green, white, and red tinsel was a common sight in the North End during St. Anthony’s Feast.

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