A beloved summertime tradition returned to Williamsburg last week with the lifting of the four ton, five story Giglio tower outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel church on Havemeyer Street. The ceremonial lifting of the tower is the centerpiece of a 12-day Italian street festival packed with kiddie rides, a Ferris wheel, carnival games, and more tasty zeppoles, braciola, and sausages than you can shake a mortadella at.
It's an incredible spectacle: 125 men lift a four ton tower bearing the statue of Saint Paolino—as well as a brass band—and carry it down the block in choreographed feats of strength and endurance. Meanwhile, on the other end of the street, another big group of brawny guys carry around a big wooden ship crowded with costumed "Turks" throwing confetti. The two icons then "dance" toward each other in a series of raucous lifts throughout the afternoon, with confetti flying everywhere on the crowded street.
The ritual, which originated with Italian immigrants from the Nola region, honors St. Paulinus, an early Catholic bishop who was, the story goes, enslaved by North African pirates after offering himself as a substitute for a local boy who was abducted by the brigands. When he was ultimately released, St. Paulinus returned to Nola in a boat and was showered with lilies by joyous local townspeople. (Giglio means lily, and a statue of St. Paulinus adorns the top of the tower.)
The extravaganza continues through July 17th, when the Giglio will be lifted one final time in the afternoon by the "old timers." But perhaps the most exuberant part of the festival is the "Night Dance of the Giglio," which happens this year on Wednesday, July 13th at 7:30. See you there.
275 North 8th Street at Havemeyer Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn // Website