North Bennet Street School is located in one of Boston's most culturally diverse neighborhoods, the North End. Residents and visitors of the North End can enjoy a variety of food, shopping, and culture, all within one walkable neighborhood.
The North End has historically been a place for immigrants throughout the City's history. Its earliest settlers, the Irish, called the North End their home in the 1800's. In the 1900's, Portuguese and Eastern European Jews flocked to the area. Finally, Italian immigrants came to the North End, developing it into what is now commonly known as "Little Italy."
Summertime in Boston is a time to celebrate, and that's truer for the North End than anywhere else! Each summer, the North End bursts into life, teeming with cultural pride and festivities. You can practically feel the energy radiating from the neighborhood. August features a lineup of outdoor feasts and processions, where attendees are surrounded by games, Italian food and drinks, entertainment, shopping, and religious parades celebrating the Catholic heritage of the area's Italian immigrants. If you want to get a feel for Boston culture, don't miss these festivals!
After cancelling the 2020 events due to the pandemic, the feasts are back in person for 2021.
St. Agrippina di Mineo Feast: July 29 - August 1
The festival remembers St. Agrippina, a martyr who was tortured to death before being brought from Rome to Mineo. The story of her journey to Mineo and the three young holy women who carried her body is full of the miraculous, from the lightness of her body to the cloud that protected and transported the holy women. Her followers gather to honor and remember her each year. The four-day celebration concludes with a noon procession on Sunday, where her statue is taken from the Chapel and brought through the streets of the North End.
Madonna Della Cava Feast: August 6-8
In 13th century Trapani, Sicily, a young boy was born mute. He was visited in dreams by the Madonna Della Cava, who begged him to find and uncover her. After pleading with his mother, she finally took the boy to Ronzi, where the Madonna Della Cava had told the boy she was buried. The villagers dug in three spots before finding a massive stone with the Madonna's image emblazoned upon it. Once they uncovered the stone, the boy was suddenly able to speak again. To this day, the church they erected over the stone still stands, and the Madonna Della Cava is celebrated each August. The festival features entertainment, raffles, and a Sunday procession of the Madonna's image.
Fisherman's Feast of the Madonna Del Soccorso di Sciacca: August 12-15
The oldest Italian festival in Boston, The Fisherman's Feast dates back to 16th century Sciacca, Sicily. The townspeople were looking for a way to ship the statue of the Madonna del Soccorso (Our Lady of Help) from Palermo, a town in northern Sicily. The fishermen of Sciacca knew that no other boat was big enough to carry her weight, so they volunteered their largest vessel. It took more than 200 fishermen to carry the statue to the dock, and the boat was barely able to make the trip. Despite all odds, they made it back to Sciacca and were given the honor of being the only people allowed to carry the statue. The festival remembers this tradition with a blessing of the fishing waters, a feast, and a Sunday procession followed by the "Flight of the Angel."
St. Lucia's Feast: August 26
Saint Lucia's story takes place in Syracuse, Italy. St. Lucia's mother suffered from uncontrollable bleeding, and to save her, Lucia (or Lucy) dedicated herself to God and broke off her marriage. Lucy was tortured horribly for defying her fiancé. After losing her eyes, her eyesight miraculously returned before her death. She's now known as the Protectress of Eyesight, and devotees celebrate her each August, coinciding with Saint Anthony's Feast.
Saint Anthony's Feast: August 27-29
Most know Saint Anthony as the finder of lost things and the patron of the poor. Saint Anthony devoted his life to priesthood and became well known his powerful and eloquent sermons. His miracles were nothing short of incredible, astounding followers and enemies alike. Thirty years after his death, his tomb was opened, and onlookers were surprised to see that although his body had turned to dust, his tongue was preserved. Today, he remains one of the most popular Saints in the Christian and Catholic faiths. Saint Anthony's Feast is the largest Italian street festival in New England and features entertainment, delicious food, and of course, a Grand Procession with confetti and music.
August is the perfect time to explore the diverse heritage of the North End. We at NBSS feel lucky to be a part of such a proud, culturally-rich neighborhood. To learn more about the immigrant populations and history of the North End, click here. Or, connect with us on Facebook to find out about upcoming events in the area.
Images by: Matt Conti at NorthEndWaterfront.com, Leslee_atFlickr, Lorianne DiSabato, and jonpetitt, courtesy of Flickr.