Buona Festa Hammonton, let’s celebrate our good fortune
In less than seven days, the greatest week of the year in Hammonton will commence.
I am ecstatic. The food, the music, the fun and most importantly, the faith makes the week amazing for all who visit.
It is a time when I reflect back on my ancestors decision to immigrate to Italy. Most of my relatives came over from the Mediterranean nation in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
On the ships to America, I imagine they had to be nervous and would turn to their faith to guide them during the difficult voyage.
We are Roman Catholics and have been for generations (even that tiny sliver of me that is Irish). Our faith and our cultural identity are all wrapped-up together. It is hard to determine where our Italian-ness begins and our Catholic-ness takes over. Not to mention our very American sensibilities on some topics.
The Italians who settled in Hammonton more than 140 years ago, gave thanks to the Blessed Mother for their safe passage and for blessings on their new life in America.
The Feast Day is July 16 and is a holiday in Hammonton complete with fireworks.
“It all began in 1875 at 232 Pine Road, at the home of Antonio Capelli. There, he, along with a small group of fellow immigrants, prayed in front of a painting of the Virgin Mary. They also formed a procession in front of the home. They prayed in thanks—for their safe journey to America, for a successful farming season, and for the blessings and good fortune found in their new home of Hammonton,” mountcarmelsociety.org tells us.
The faithful now bring out statues of many saints from St. Joseph’s Church and walk through the downtown in devotion. If you believe in a higher power, it is very moving. If you have ever prayed and sought intercession, you will know the value of showing your appreciation in a public way.
When I watch the procession go by, my emotions all bubble up to the surface.
And I am not sure if it is from the devotion to the Catholic faith, the effort the faithful show by walking in the humid heat of a July day and in some cases pushing a saint statue, the evident hard-work of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society or my deep appreciation for my own blessings and recognition of my failings.
It is a day where your faith is rewarded and is obvious to all who share a similar heritage.
There are moments of solemnity, pure joy, humor and more. All of your senses will come alive on the Feast Day and throughout the week.
It is a time to reconnect with our faith and our fellow feast-goers.
You can stand in one spot, maybe near St. Joe’s Church on Third Street or at the Mt. Carmel Society Beer Garden on Mt. Carmel Lane (Tilton Street), and talk to two dozen people you know in the course of one hour and you haven’t moved a foot in those 60 minutes.
Buona Festa! I will look for you at the Feast Week. Buy me a lemonade if you find me. I am sure it will be hot and I could definitely use one.
Do you have a story about growing up Italian, either in Hammonton or anywhere else? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.