Boston in the summer is a force to be reconed with. The students have moved out, but the tourists have moved in. It’s hot in the city, and the narrow streets of Boston’s North End get smaller as the feasts get larger.
The North End feasts are a tradition. Starting in July, the every-weekend feasts honor one of the patron Saints. The streets are decorated with red, white and green lights and booths offering everything from pizza slices to cannoli and gelato are set up for all to ‘feast.’ As the summer gets longer, so do the feasts.
No longer a peaceful spectactor sport, the feasts have grown in the 12 years I’ve lived in the neighborhood from simple age-old traditions to sponsorships and carnival games. Next to the Lady Madonna sits a booth with faux Louis Vitton bags and fake rolex watches. The banners that welcome tourists to the North End are sponsored by local banks or restaurants. I wonder if these ‘additions’ to what once was a religious ritual is really helping the local economy or just providing a commercial distraction.
Every summer I sit on my front step and watch the hundreds of people go by. I wonder if they know the signifcance of the North End feasts, or if they just find the scene exciting and entertaining – like something out of a movie. No matter, really. I know the look in the eyes of the 80+ year-old men who remember the days of feasts long ago… when the courted their wives, played bocce in the streets and drank lemon ice from a paper cup. It’s those memories that will last a lifetime.