Mama mia! 109 years and counting!
Holy Rosary Church to host annual Festa Italiana and novena
by E. Assata Wright
Reporter staff writer
Aug 05, 2012 | 2187 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The zeppoles are a featured item at the feast and residents come from across the city to get their annual fix of this popular pastry.
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Jersey City residents who were so inclined could have celebrated a traditional “Old World” Catholic feast almost every weekend throughout the month of July. Local churches throughout the city held feasts in honor of Saint Anthony, Saint Anne, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

But the grand dame of them all – at least in Jersey City – is the La Festa Italiana, hosted annually by Holy Rosary Church, the first Italian parish in the entire state of New Jersey.

For more than a century, Holy Rosary, located at the corner of Sixth and Monmouth streets, has hosted its La Festa Italiana. Once celebrated solely by Italian immigrants who wanted to connect with and celebrate their heritage, the feast is now attended by residents throughout the city, regardless of ethnic background or religion.

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Like all feasts, food and entertainment are always the two main centers of attraction at La Festa Italiana.

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Part block party, part religious observance, feasts are celebrated throughout Italy and pay homage to various saints and Biblical figures. The feast tradition was brought to North America when Italians immigrated to the New World. They are still held in cities and towns with large Italian American populations. Some feasts date back more than 100 years.

Jersey City’s Holy Rosary, founded 127 years ago, will for five days this week host its 109th Festa Italiana.

Music, and all the Italy you can eat

Like all feasts, food and entertainment are always the two main centers of attraction at La Festa Italiana, although Holy Rosary tries to make its feast among the largest.

Each night, the feast, which begins on Aug. 15 and continues through Aug. 19, will feature nightly fun that will include such popular delights as rice balls, zeppoles, homemade desserts from Cafe Plus, and fresh mozzarella from the Mozz Boss.

Other Italian specialties from Michael Anthony’s and Delenio’s will be on sale. Also, the White Star will offer a full service bar.

In addition to the food, each night of the feast will feature a headlining musical act

Toga Party Band kicks off the feast on Wednesday, Aug. 15 with dance rock tunes and, yes, as the band’s name implies, there will be toga party attire onstage as well. New York City’s Total Soul will perform a set filled with R&B, Motown hits, and big band jazz standards on Thursday, Aug. 16. Renowned oldies group the Cameos will take center stage on Friday, Aug. 17 with their repertoire of golden hits from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. The Edge – the group, not the guitarist from U2 – performs the following night. Swing jazz group First Kiss will close out the celebration on Sunday, Aug. 19.

The entertainment line up Saturday night will also include a Zumba dance party.

In addition to the musical highlights this year’s festa will include 30 vendors throughout the celebration, including participation from some of the craft artists affiliated with Not Yo Mama’s Craft Fair on Aug. 18 and 19.

Prayers before the party

Like many Old World Italian feasts, La Festa Italiana is about more than fun and games. In keeping with tradition, the Festa is preceded by nine days of focused prayer, known as a novena, to Our Lady of the Assumption. The novena begins on Monday, Aug. 6 and will end on Tuesday, Aug. 14. The novena includes nightly recitations of the rosary.

Rev. Frank Fano of St. Helen’s Church in Westfield, N.J., will be the guest pastor on the first night of the novena.

For more information regarding the novena or the 2012 Festa Italiana, visit http://lafestaitalianajc.com or call (201) 795-0120. Holy Rosary Church is located at 344 Sixth St.

E-mail E. Assata Wright at awright@hudsonreporter.com.

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