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San Gennaro Festival: Why you should head to Little Italy's Feast

Every year, Italians and revelers from all over the world head to Little Italy in New York City for the Feast of San Gennaro.

This year's festival kicks off at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday and runs through Sept. 20. The grand marshal is Tony Danza, who is expected to ride in Saturday's Grand Procession in a Venetian gondola on wheels. Another highlight this year: Ferrara Italian bakery will attempt a Guinness record with the world's tallest gelato cone.

Two million people are expected to attend, and you should be one of them.

Here's why:

It's an annual tradition since 1926

This is an old San Gennaro festival announcement
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mario Tama

This is an old San Gennaro festival announcement seen in the Italian American Museum in Little Italy. The museum is located in the former 'Banca Stabile,' a bank for immigrants founded by Italian immigrant Franceso Rosario Stabile in 1885.

The Blood Miracle is celebrated

Every year on Sept. 19 (Saint Januarius Day),
Photo Credit: Flickr / Nicole Marie Edine

Every year on Sept. 19 (Saint Januarius Day), it is said that the patron saint of Naples' blood, which according to believers was saved and is in a vial in the Naples Cathedral, liquifies. This happens three times a year, and thousands gather to witness it. Every other day of the year, the blood is congealed. When the blood liquifies, Naples calls the Church of the Most Precious Blood in New York City to give them the news. Believers rejoice, and the procession of San Gennaro through the streets begins.

The festival honors Saint Januarius, the patron saint of Naples

The feast began when newly arrived immigrants from
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mario Tama

The feast began when newly arrived immigrants from Naples continued to follow the Italian tradition celebrating the day in 305 A.D. when Saint Gennaro (Saint Januarius) was martyred. It started as a one-day event and now lasts 11 days. On Sept. 19, a religious procession winds along Mulberry and Mott streets, carrying the Statue of San Gennaro. The procession begins after a celebratory mass at the Most Precious Blood Church on Mulberry Street, which is also home to the National Shrine of San Gennaro.

The procession also features marching bands

Men play music in the streets during the
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mario Tama

Men play music in the streets during the procession with the Saint Gennaro statue at the festival.

The food at San Gennaro is blessed

Coils of sausage cook at the Feast of
Photo Credit: Dreamstime / Stuart Monk

Coils of sausage cook at the Feast of San Gennaro, where Italian treats of all kinds can be found. The blessing of the stands takes place on the first night of the festival, which this year is Thursday, Sept. 10. From 6 - 7 p.m., priests from Most Precious Blood Church will bless all the vendors, from restaurants to cafes to shops to vendors, so that they will all have a "successful Feast."

Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday will be celebrated with a singing competition

Frank Sinatra will be celebrated on Sunday, Sept.
Photo Credit: Getty / AFP

Frank Sinatra will be celebrated on Sunday, Sept. 13, with a singing competition hosted by TV personality Bill Boggs. Winners will get $250 and $100 cash prizes. So if you think you can sing like "Ole Blue Eyes," now is your chance to show off! If that's not enough, there'll be a giant birthday cake in the shape of Sinatra in a fedora propped up on a baby grand piano.

Because food plays a major role in the festivities

In Italian culture, food plays a central role.
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mario Tama

In Italian culture, food plays a central role. The Feast of San Gennaro, while being a holy event, is also about bringing people together. Cannolis for everyone!

The festival gives money to charity

Figli di San Gennaro, Inc., which runs the
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Figli di San Gennaro, Inc., which runs the Feast of San Gennaro, says they've donated more than $1.8 million raised from the festival to charity.

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