The 123rd Annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Paulinus of Nola is in full swing in Williamsburg, where a classic Italian street fair has taken over a four block stretch of Havemeyer Street by The Shrine Church Of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. There you'll find sketchy old carny rides, infinite piles of fresh sausage and zeppole, a wide array of hand rolled cigars, and classic sideshow amusement barkers. There is also a towering 80-feet-tall statue called the Giglio, which weighs three tons, not including the big brass band that sits at its base. On Sunday, in accordance with tradition, it was lifted and paraded through the streets with great fanfare.
Yesterday marked the first of three Giglio lifts during the course of the 12 day festival. Hundreds of sweat-soaked men rotated in and out of positions underneath the massive monolith, which was decorated differently than last year because, as one NYPD officer explained, every two years there's a new Giglio captain, and he gets to decide how to adorn it. Over the course of several hours in the blazing heat, the Giglio was lifted, bounced, and paraded back and forth on Havemeyer as the band blared and boys tossed confetti from high up inside the statue.
On the other end of the block, more brawny guys carried a giant boat on their shoulders, with a competing band adding to the weight. The symbolic ritual dates back to 410 A.D., when North African pirates overran the town of Nola in southern Italy. Many of the young men were abducted into slavery, but the local bishop, Paolino, negotiated for the release of one of the men by offering himself in exchange for the boy. Paolino's eventual return from slavery is re-enacted by the boat lift (and the historically-accurate Rocky theme song):
If you missed Sunday's festivities, there's still time to honor Paolino's sacrifice. The feast continues through next Sunday July 21st, when the Giglio will be lifted again on "Old Timers Day." It will also be lifted on Wednesday evening for the annual "night lift." Details here.