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Make way for the dancing of the Giglio

Slender−shouldered hipsters will soon rub elbows with sturdy−shouldered true believers at the Feast of the Giglio, an annual week−long religious celebration in Williamsburg.

The event, which takes place July 8−19, is famously marked by the presence of 120 men carrying a four−ton, 65−foot−tall statue called a Giglio, a massive symbol of faith and tradition.

Thousands are expected to flock to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church for the week−long festival marking the return from captivity of Saint Paulinus (San Paolino), patron saint of the wave of southern Italian immigrants who settled in Brooklyn in the 1880s.

The feast commemorates the safe return of Paolino, who was the bishop of the small Italian city of Nola. The story, according to the church, is that in 410 AD, Paolino exchanged himself to North African pirates in exchange for a young hostage. Moved by his altruism, a Turkish sultan ultimately negotiated Paolino’s freedom, which was greeted rapturously by the entire town who greeted their bishop carrying lilies (gigli, in Italian), a symbol of love and purity. The homecoming is considered the first observance of what would become a sacred event, according to the church.

In Brooklyn, the feast has been held for the past 122 years, attracting throngs of committed and just curious. “Anyone can come and enjoy the spectacle,” said Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s Monsignor Joseph Calise.

He said the church will have a full array of religious services — in English, Spanish, Italian, Creole, and Polish — reflecting the ever−changing diversity of the neighborhood.

Calise will experience the feast for the first time ever as pastor of the parish. “It certainly has defined the parish in the Diocese of Brooklyn and the city Of New York,” he said.

The festivities kick off this year at 6 p.m. with an opening mass and procession at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 275 North 8th Street. The days that follow will feature dances, rides, concerts, an arts show, flea market, and “lots of good food,” Calise said.

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