Manchester Whitsun Procession

Sunday afternoon, Miss Mussel found herself wanding around Manchester’s city centre. The weather was glorious, the buskers were out and there were plenty of grass patches upon which Manchester fine citizens were acquiring their orange tinge in a more natural way.

While partaking in this activity herself (for cultural immersion reasons only, obviously), Observer and Innocent fruit smoothie in hand, Miss Mussel’s idyll was encroached on by the sound of distant pipes. And then a brass band. And then pipes again. A quick investigation revealed that a procession of North Manchester’s Catholic churches was not aware of some recent constructions works when planning their route and was now stuck on a side road.

Churches in the Northwest, both Anglican and Catholic have traditionally paraded through town on Whitsun, which falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter. Girls traditionally wore white dresses to church. The practice is much less common now and Miss Mussel’s streamer-holding informant told her that this parade tradition was organized by “The Italians” and then the Irish Catholic churches joined in later years. This explains the pipes and the number of times Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair was played. It also explains the iconography.

When apprised of the procession’s predicament, the beat cops calmly cleared a route and redirected traffic to allow the 15-church procession to circle the block and turn around.

It wasn’t an official parade in the sense that people were lining the route waiting but rather the sort of intersection between civil and religious activity that you get in a country where church and state are not separate entities. The bands need parades to march at and the churches need someone to make noise to attract attention.

Everyone’s happy. Except for the sullen teenagers, who, with each step, hate their mothers more and more for guilting them in to participating. Nothing can fix that.

1 comment

  1. Over here in New Jersey, I frequently play in Italian feast bands, which are the Italian Catholic variety. We travel with a few percussion instruments, brass instruments and a few clarinets.

    They’re a fascinating tradition, though I’m afraid they might be dying out. The very act of music making in public, walking through suburban streets to church members’ houses for socializing. Often they’re in honor of a specific saint, and hosted by the church social clubs (I’ve been told they became fashionable when Rome was concerned about idol worship, and some of the churches actually try to have as little to do with the festivities as possible).

    They still take in a lot of money for the church. Money is given to the saints by church members for that specific saint’s protection, and often the feasts are accompanied by fair with small carnival rides and food booths.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *