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Photo of shrimp boat with people, a flag, and red, white, and blue streamers
Shrimp boat Evan Michael approaches the blessing boat, May 2, 1999

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Biloxi, Mississippi's Blessing of the Fleet
A Local Legacy

If you saw the movie "The Perfect Storm," then you know how dangerous it can be to fish for a living. That's why every year at the beginning of the shrimp fishing season in Biloxi, Mississippi, a priest from St. Michael's Catholic Church blesses the shrimp boats. The ceremony begins with the dropping of an evergreen wreath into the water in remembrance of fishermen who have been lost at sea. Then a colorful procession of more than 30 shrimp boats files past the anchored "Blessing Boat," where the priest stands, sprinkling holy water on each of the boats and blessing each one, asking for a safe and successful fishing season.

Blessing of ships is an old custom that started in Europe and was brought to America. Every time a boat is taken out into the water there are potential dangers -- turning over (capsizing), springing a leak, getting lost, or sailors falling overboard. There is also the uncertainty of whether or not enough seafood will be caught to make the trip profitable. The custom of blessing the shrimp boats started in Biloxi in 1929 and will probably continue for a long time.

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