May 10

Saint Nicholas and the Party at the Sea (San Nicola e Festa a Mare)

by in italy, travel

For an outsider looking in, it may seem like a regular street festival; could be a parade, a rodeo or national day of celebration like we often see in the western world. However, look a little closer and you will see, in Bari, Italy from May 7 – 9th each year, a miracle and religious celebration of the patron saint of the city, San Nicola.  This festa commemorates the return of the saint’s bones and relics to the city of Bari, where each year since 1087, it is said that the bones of the saint weep perfumed water as a miracle and source of hope and health for those who trustingly abandon themselves to God.  Saint Nicholas is said to be the patron saint of sailors, thieves, children and students as well as that of numerous cities in Europe.  And yes, this is the original Santa Claus, after which the Dutch Sinterklaas is named and celebrated every year on December 6th, the feast day of the saint.

For an Italian this type of celebration and religious fervor is easy to comprehend, for a non-Italian Catholic, it may be a little hard to grasp but still very interesting, for a non-Italian, non-Catholic, well it is just another rodeo centred in the città vecchia (old city).  With 3 days of festivities including hourly masses at the Basilica di San Nicola, parades and processions both through the streets and on the sea, street vendors, balloons, fireworks, beer and sausages, the Festa di San Nicola is a celebration of the city of Bari, the saint and a welcome mat for summer.  People of all ages, pilgrims from other parts of Italy and Europe, spectators and children line the streets to worship, enjoy and celebrate Saint Nicholas.


For more pictures of Italy, visit my flick sets: Umbria and Puglia.

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