The Hoboken Italian Festival, the premier Italian-American festival in the New Jersey tri-state area, is nearly 85 years old, and is derived from the 600 year old sagre (festival) of the Madonna Dei Martiri held each year in Molfetta (Puglia), Italy. Many Italian immigrants--like my father Saverio (Sal) Finzi with his mother, father, brother and sister--came from Molfetta to Hoboken in hopes of building their new American life. This festival has merged into a celebration of Hoboken, the religious Sagre, or feast day, and to honor Italian families who came from Molfetta.
The festival occurs yearly, the weekend after Labor Day, for 4 days at Sinatra Park, on the historic waterfront of Hoboken, NJ. The highlight of the feast, beyond the fabulous views of the Manhattan skyline and the wide variety of foods and entertainment, is the day long procession through the streets of Hoboken, including a painstaking reenactment of the "Blessing of the Fleet" in the Hudson River, all culminating with a huge fireworks extravaganza in the evening. Sinatra Park, named after Frank Sinatra (who grew up in Hoboken and went to school with my Mother, Marie Vetri), is also where the film On The Waterfront was filmed in 1954. There is an abundance of food and music for all to enjoy.
The tradition of the Madonna Dei Martiri to the year 1399, when the King of Naples, Ladislao di Durazzo, commanded that the Sagre and the Religious celebration be combined to celebrate the “Miracle” and blessings of the Madonna. This celebration is traditionally held on September 8, which is the Universal Feast of the Nativity of Mary. The actual “Miracle” of the Madonna in 1188....
Molfetta, situated as a port town on the Adriatic Sea, has historically been a maritime community. In 1188 a boatload of Crusaders returning from the Holy Land found the Icon of the Madonna floating on the water. They brought it to the Hospice in Molfetta which was constructed in 1162 on the orders of the Norman King, William II. The Crusaders would return to Molfetta, many of whom were wounded and dying. It is for this reason that Molfetta had built the Hospice. Those who were returned to health went on their way, while some died in Molfetta as Martyrs of the Faith. Everyone prayed to the Madonna of Martyrs who was symbolized as a Mother and Child with Angels, in a Byzantine style Icon. The Madonna in 1840 became the town’s patron along side San Corrado. Especially devoted were the fisherman who asked for her protection. Annually, the Molfettese people, where ever they are in the world, take time to celebrate this Miracle. Traditionally, there is Novena with a Mass and procession through the streets. At some point the Icon (statue) is placed on the fishing boats for veneration. A plenary indulgence is granted by the Pope to anyone who attends the Mass of the Madonna Dei Martiri and the Mass the Sunday following Easter.
If you go:
Hoboken Italian Festival honoring the Madonna dei Martiri
Festival Dates for 2015: September 10th - 13th
The Procession is on Saturday, Sept. 12th.
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