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Thanksgiving Eve in the North End, 1910

Just by chance the other day I found a reference to Thanksgiving in the North End on November 24, 1910.

It is a column by an unnamed author whose main title is: “North End in Merry Mood.” This is followed by three sub-titles: “St. Stephens’ Veterans Have a Dance,” “Italians of North Sq. Catch Spirit of the Holiday,” and “Preparations on Every Hand for Fund Today.”

Thanksgiving-TurkeyIt begins with the words “Thanksgiving eve in the North End was a succession of surprises.”

The first was what was taking place at St. John’s Hall on Moon Street: “music, dancing, more music and a general good time all the evening, and even up to the wee hours of the morning” mainly by former parishioners of the Church, with names like Ahern, Daley, McNabb and Mahoney, and led by fiddle player and professor of somewhere, Martin O’Malley. The people, young and old, danced waltzes, polkas, and two steps, with such variety that the article said it “would take the seven wise men of Greece and the entire race of Druids to answer.” All agreed that the evening was the “best ever.”

Meanwhile, “North Sq. was deserted, the usual Italian gatherings being missing.” When asked where everyone was, the lone Italian stroller said “Ever’one he go look for da turk.” However, since many of the Italian families could not afford the high cost of turkeys, many came back instead with chickens. Interestingly, the article said that Italians were actually celebrating the Festa della Gallina,” the Feast of Our Lady of the Hens. This is from the town of Pagani in province of Salerno in Campania. In Italy there is a procession and dance called tammurriata, but it is celebrated shortly after Easter and not in November. Perhaps some of the Italians in the North End saw the American Thanksgiving as a form of their own festa? Might they even have tried to celebrate in correspondence with the American holiday? This is an intriguing possibility, but there is no mention of a procession or Italian dancing.

As for the Jewish section of the North End: “Along Salem st., where everything and everybody was quiet” except for the small boys were who troubled nobody and the kosher Turkeys passing from butcher shops up to the tenements.

This is an interesting snap-shot of Thanksgiving in the North End in 1910. It ends on the note that “the whole North End was finding something to give thanks to.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

About James Pasto

James S. Pasto is a senior lecturer at Boston University, co-founder of the North End Historical Society and editor of the society's journal. To share stories about North End's past, e-mail pasto@bostoniano.info. To find out more about the North End Historical Society, visit alexgoldfeld.com/NEHS.html.

One comment

  1. Makes me laugh. Years ago, there was an old timer who worked in the kitchen. I used to make fun of him by telling other waiters and waitresses that the owners would send him out in the alley with two butcher knives trying to get “chicken” (pigeons) by almost singing, “Veni ca gallineli.” (Dialect) Still makes me laugh. You can delete this if you’d like.