Happy St. Joseph's Day - An Italian Traditional Tribute

Hello my dear friends in Christ,

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 is 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 back 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 either on the altar and people are not allowed to eat meat during the dinner, because this 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 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.
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an immense St. Joseph's Day altar in New Orleans, LA, USA

Here is another beautiful explanation with photos of outstanding St. Joseph altars. In this web-site, the author explains in extreme details, the contents and their meanings of the food and wine items on the altars. It is highly recommended reading to understand the dedication to this Feast Day tradition: http://annachupa.com/StJo/index.html

and here is a link to a "Virtual St. Joseph's Altar": http://www.thankevann.com/stjoseph/

Buona Festa di San Giuseppee !!

Holy Card Image reprinted from Holy Cards for Your Inspiration blog http://thewindowshowsitall.blogspot.com


~ bella

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Anonymous said...

Nice blog..will add you to my links will you add mine?

Bella Vita said...

Hi Jackie, Yes, I just visited your blog and will add you asap....what a great idea to have numerous contributing bloggers on one site. Thanks for adding me too. Have a beautiful day spreading love in your world. Roz