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It’s giglio time in Williamsburg!

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Music will fill the air. Kids will fill the rides. Canolis will fill the mouths. And, most important, an 80-foot-tall, three-ton statue will rise above it all.

It’s all part of the Feast of the Giglio — a 122-year Williamsburg tradition that honors St. Paulinus of Nola.

You may have your heroes, your stars, your celebrities, but in the fifth century, Paulinus was Abraham, Nelson Mandela and Harry Houdini all rolled into one, having sacrificed himself for his son, been enslaved in Africa and then escaped back to Nola in one piece.

Upon his return, you know what happened: He was showered with lilies — otherwise known as gigli.

Hence the reason that 130 men hoist a three-ton statue of the saint — covered in lilies — three times during the 11-day Italian festival next week.

The annual hoist is shrouded in mystery, so we called up Carl Bonomo, the chairman of the Feast of the Giglio, to get the inside story.

Why do grown men do this? “It goes back to growing up in that neighborhood and being part of the parish of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. It was something that your grandparents were involved in, that your parents were involved. Our forefathers brought the tradition of the giglio over from Italy.”

What makes a good giglio? “It’s this huge tall tower decorated with different colors, with the statue of St. Paulinus on top. As a little kid, you’re in awe of the sheer size of it.”

It all sounds a bit nuts: “Well, a lot of the time it hurts. For several days, if not a week or two, you have a lump on your shoulder. But you know what, it feels real, real good.”

But it also sounds like fun: “It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you stand in front of that giglio, and you listen to the music, and you get ready to direct the lift.”

Sounds like you’re proud of it, Carl: “I gotta tell ya, I don’t know any other feast that’s strong 122 years and going.”

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Feast and Festival of the Giglio [275 N. Eighth St. at Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg, (718) 384-0223], July 8-19. The giglio is lifted on July 12 at 1 pm; on July 15 at 8 pm; and on July 19 at 1 pm. For info, visit www.olmcfeast.com.

Updated 5:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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