Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dance of the Lily

It doesn't get more magical than turning onto your street one night in July to find a spinning tilt-a-whirl ride just a few doors down from your apartment, lights a-flashing, and a glimpse of a precarious spire around the corner on Havermeyer. The spire is the "giglio," or lily. For two weeks, bands strike up at odd hours, men walk about distributing loaves of bread, people line up to ride the ferris wheel and buy zeppoles, and general merriment ensues. The reason?

According to a good local flier, "Each year the Italian community of Williamsburg reenacts a fourth century pageant which commemorates the return of the Bishop of Nola, Paolino, from captivity. His release from Moorish slavery was cause for a great festival which became famous throughout southern Italy. The same celebration has occurred here in Brooklyn for the past 120 years, at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Paolino was returned to his people by boat, a Moorish galleon with an Arab crew. On the shores of Nola, the joyous townspeople held raised lilies in their hands as a sign of homage to San Paolino."

(I wonder what happened to the Arab crew?)

The major part of the celebration consists of hundreds of men lifting both the lily and the galleon onto their shoulders and marching it through the streets. This occurred on Sunday. A nice twist this year is that I have had a brutal fever for the past three days, and my sleep on Sunday was, like some hallucinogenic Fellini scene, punctuated by oom-pa-pas and shouts, as dozens of people convened outside Bamonte's for food and fellowship.

The celebration continues through this Sunday, July 20th, so check it out.

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