On March 19, Catholics all over the world celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus. Considered the patron saint of many, including husbands, fathers, families,
workers and the Catholic Church, St. Joseph’s feast day is often elaborately celebrated in Italian communities with a huge feast featuring a series of special foods laden on what is known as St. Joseph’s Table.
The custom of hosting a St. Joseph’s feast dates back to an ancient Italian legend from Sicily regarding a terrible famine in a small village. As the famine spread, families and livestock were dying and the villagers in desperation prayed to St. Joseph to intercede with God on their behalf. The famine ended and in thanksgiving to St. Joseph, the village held a large feast and invited everyone in the area, including the elderly, the indigent and the homeless.
The feast of St. Joseph is still celebrated in many communities today with an abundance of food and fellowship. There are flowers and plants such as lilies or palms and decorations in the colors of green, brown and yellow, to represent the clothing of St. Joseph. At the celebration there is an altar set with white linen that displays a statue of St. Joseph and a picture of the Holy Family. Special breads baked in the shape of a carpenter’s staff along with an abundance of fish, pasta and vegetable dishes, many featuring beans and lentils, are served. A local priest blesses the food.
Following dinner, there are cream filled pastries and fried or baked pastries known as zeppole, cassatedde, frittelle, or sfinci or depending on the region it originated from in Italy, and cookies decorated with almonds for dessert.
Share your St. Joseph’s Day traditions, photos and recipes with the readers of the Sun. Submissions can be emailed to email@example.com or sent to The Catholic Sun, att: St. Joseph’s Celebration, 240 E. Onondaga Street, Syracuse, NY 13202.