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St. Ann's Feast

07/19/2011 - 5:00pm
07/26/2011 - 11:00pm

History of St. Ann's Feast

St. Ann Church | 704 Jefferson Street | Hoboken, NJ

The history of the United States as a nation is barely over two hundred years. The United States in its two hundred year history has welcomed people from all over the world. Many of those who emigrated to this country brought with them cultural and religious traditions which predated the formation of the United States by hundreds of years.Among the people who came to the U.S. were men and women from a small town nestled in the peaks of the Apennine Mountains. They lived in the town of Monte San Giacomo (Province of Salerno, Italy) named after St. James the Apostle.This little hamlet, of less than three thousand people, saw many of its sons and daughters depart for the great land across the sea, where they hoped to make a better life for themselves and their families.Despite the great distance that separated them from their homeland, the San Giacomese, most of whom settled in the Metropolitan area and principally Hoboken, maintained sentimental feelings for their place of origin. In the early days of their arrival in a new land with a strange language and customs, the immigrants encountered many difficulties and endured many social, economic, and political hardships. During this period, the newly arrived San Giacomese drew strength from their communal ties. They were bound together by the love of their homeland and Faith. The desire to maintain their traditional values and religious customs inspired them to establish the St. Ann's Society (Societa' S. Anna), an organization which would be a means of bringing the people even closer together and promote their ideals.
The members , who were not at all affluent, originally met in a basement at Fourth and Jefferson Streets. With the passage of time, the Society's membership increased and the members were able to purchase a storefront property at Seventh and Adams Streets. In the meantime (1900), St. Ann's Parish (Parrochia di S. Anna) had just been established. Priests said mass and held religious services in a small area of the storefront which had been converted into a chapel.
A short time later, the parish purchased a parcel of land at the corner of Seventh and Jefferson Streets, as the site for a future church and rectory. This dream was soon to be realized by the laying of the cornerstone on November 8, 1903 and finally with the completion of the church in 1906. The successful construction of the church inspired the Society to develop plans for a celebration or festa, that would serve to honor St. Ann, strengthen their devotion and preserve a cherished tradition.
A committee was formed to devise and execute the plans for the "festa". Meetings were held months in advance of the projected feast day. In order to raise money to finance the feast, members circulated from door to door not only in Hoboken but wherever their fellow townsmen and relatives were to be found. They traveled by train, subway and ferry to the far reaches of the metropolitan area and beyond. Their devotion to St. Ann and the desire to honor her spurred them on tirelessly to achieve their goal. The months of planning and hard work came to fruition with the inauguration of St. Ann's Feast, along with the feast of San Giacomo, in 1910. A two day festival was held July 25th in honor of San Giacomo and July 26th in honor of St. Ann.
Various Italian foods were featured as well as operatic music and singers for the public’s enjoyment. However, the culmination of these festivities was the procession of the statue of St. Ann and a large framed picture of San Giacomo through the streets of Hoboken on July 26th.
Immigrants from Monte San Giacomo and their families traveled great distances to Hoboken for this event. Society members adorned with shawls, sashes and ribbons with the image of St. Ann, processed through the streets as a band played both religious and traditional Italian songs. Thousands of men, women and children followed the procession through the cobble stone streets of Hoboken as a sign of devotion, to fulfill a vow or simply to preserve the traditions of their homeland. Those unable to walk waited patiently at their homes to view the statue of the saint. It was not uncommon for pregnant women, as a sacrificial symbol, to walk the entire procession in their bare feet. St. Ann is the patroness of pregnant women because although she was thought to have been sterile she conceived the Blessed Virgin very late in life. To this day, women who are pregnant and those wishing to become pregnant turn to her for help.
Although the founding fathers of the first St. Ann's Feast have passed on, their descendants continue to honor their memory and preserve their endeared traditions through the organization of the modern day festival and through their dedicated devotion to St. Ann.