Food and faith St. Ann’s Feast history dates back 95 years

The St. Ann’s Feast has long been an essential celebration of Hoboken’s Italian-American cultural heritage. The festival centers on St. Ann’s church, the small neighborhood Jefferson Street parish that originated 105 years ago and houses the now-famous statue of St. Ann.

For the past 95 years, the devoted men and woman of Hoboken and surrounding areas have paid homage to St. Ann, the patron saint of women.

The tradition actually started in Italy in the small town of Monte San Giacomo, which is nestled in the Apennine Mountains. As was common before the turn of the century, immigrants often stayed together and settled down in transplanted communities in America. Such was the case with the San Giacomese, who mostly made Hoboken their new home.

Economically and culturally, the beginning of the century was a difficult time the new immigrants, but they were bound by the memory of their homeland and their strong Catholic faith, both of which inspired them to establish the St. Ann’s Society in 1890.

According to church officials, the members, most of whom were not affluent, met in a cramped basement at Fourth and Jefferson streets. With the passage of time, the society’s membership increased. The members were able to purchase a storefront property at Seventh and Adams streets in 1900.

St. Ann’s Parish was established, and priests held religious services in a cordoned off area of the storefront, which had been converted into a makeshift chapel.

Three years 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. The cornerstone was placed on Nov. 8, 1903, and the church opened in 1906. Soon after the church opened, the parish began to develop plans for a festival that would honor St. Ann, the church’s patron saint.

They held Hoboken’s first Feast of St. Ann in July of 1910, which coincided with a similar feast back in their Italian hometown.

The highlight of the annual festival is a special homage to St. Ann in a procession, including a 600-pound statue in her likeness carried by the ladies’ guild of St. Ann’s Church. The procession lasts between five and six hours. For pregnant women, it’s common to accompany the statue in their bare feet as an expression of their devotion to the saint.

To this day, women who are pregnant and those wishing to become pregnant turn to her for help.


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