March 1, 2018

North End, Boston. August, 1981

If you can’t quite figure out what you’re looking at here, don’t fret. The whole scene is a bit unreal even for those of us who were there. The Fisherman’s Feast of the Madonna Del Soccorso di Sciacca Society of Boston is the biggest of the Italian-American festas that turn almost every weekend in this neighborhood into a crowded madhouse of fried sausages, fried dough, strings of colored lights, games of chance, local brass bands, statues of saints paraded down one street and up the next so the devoted can pin cash offerings to attached ribbons. But the Fishermen’s Feast has something the others feasts don’t: the “flight of the angel,” seen here. As the statue of the Madonna finally arrives at the corner of Fleet and North Streets, it pauses, and from a nearby fire escape, lowered by ropes and pulleys, and attended by two earthbound sister seraphim, comes this angelic young lady who shrieks, “Silenzio!” and then addresses the saint with “Ti saluto, o Maria, piena di grazia, etc.” At the end of her short prayer, boisterous crowds rejoice, breathtakingly (literally) thick confetti flies and a small wooden boat suspended above the Madonna opens, releasing doves that had been hidden inside. Completely over the top. Completely Sicilian. And completely wonderful.

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