Have a Gratitude Filled St. Joseph’s Day!

Buona Festa di San Giuseppee !!
St. Joseph's Table
St. Joseph Altars by Kerry McCafferty


On March 18th (today), Italians everywhere celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph. It is a day that involves a lot of food preparation for large dinners. In many Catholic parishes, Italians assemble a St. Joseph’s Altar where a variety of foods are laid in thankfulness.Here is a link for a virtual St. Joseph’s Altar:http://www.thankevann.com/stjoseph/Well the fun and festivities around the globe for St. Patrick’s Day have come and gone. And today a very little known feast day is observed among Italians and Italian-Americans. It is a quiet form of tribute, but it is still very meaningful. On this day Italians give thanks for prosperity, fulfilled promises, and/or to simply share with those who are less fortunate. Here is a brief explanatory background of this feast day:

In Italy this day is known as “La Festa di San Giuseppe”. St. Joseph is the Patron Saint of Sicily and in many American-Italian communities. On this day people show their gratitude to St. Joseph because: In the Middle Ages, there was a servere drought, so the people prayed to St. Joseph for rain with an oath to honor him with a large feast if their prayers were answered. The skies opened up with rain, a famine was prevented, and the people of Sicily kept their promise by preparing a massive banquet for St. Joseph. Everyone participated, including the needy.

The good news does not stop there. On this day, it is still tradition for Italians to give food to the poor and needy, in addition to placing fava beans (the crop that helped prevent starvation during the drought) on altars created for St. Joseph.

The altar is commonly 3 tiers high to represent the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and is covered with white linen fabric. Flowers, limes, wine, cakes, cookies, breads, candles, and a special Sicilian pastry called “Zeppole” are also placed on the altars. No meats or meat-filled dishes are allowed on the altars or to eat meat during the dinner, because the feast takes place during Lent. Bread crumbs are commonly used in some of the recipes in order to represent saw dust, since St. Joseph was a carpenter. Many people will wear red.

A very special food made by Italians is called “Cuccadati” which are beautiful bread loaves that are decorated in designs symbolic of a crown of thorns or other spiritual symbols of the Church. These cover latticework known as La Vastedde, along with lemons, limes, oranges, bay leaves, and myrtle branches.

In the United States, St. Joseph is honored in larger metropolitan cities where there is a high population of Italians. . . New Orleans, especially, because it is the port where many Sicilians entered America. Buffalo, NY, New York City, Chicago, and Kansas City also have public and private St. Joseph’s altars constructed. A parade also takes place in New Orleans.

Here is a link to a very good discussion and beautiful photos of St. Joseph’s Day altars:
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  1. says

    Zeppole….My Grandma made zeppole all the time. My aunt has told me that one of my uncles actually uses store bought sweet dough to make them and they are wonderful – better than Grandmas.

    It seems all Nationalities have their version of “fried dough”

  2. says

    Maryanne, When you decide to make them again, are you going to post them on your blog? I subscribe to your feed, and would love to try them. I love sweet pastry treats too! Anything ‘bread’ is my weakness.


  3. says

    Dear Proud Italian Cook,

    You always have the best recipes posted. Maryanne posts great recipes on her blog as well! Gosh, do you have a really good recipe for zeppole that we can all try? Mmmmm!


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