March 19! Happy St. Joseph's Day! (But What Exactly IS St. Joseph's Day?)
Millions of Americans will don green hats and feast on corned
beef, cabbage and green beer to celebrate St. Patrick's Day
on March 17, but, two days later, there is another reason
to celebrate. March 19 is St. Joseph's Day, the less-known
"cousin" to St. Patty's Day.
An elaborate St. Joseph's Table.
St. Joseph's Day, or the Feast of St. Joseph, came about
in medieval Sicily. During a bad drought and famine, Sicilians
prayed to St. Joseph, who was patron of workers and the guardian
of family, for help, and the famine ended.
To give thanks for ending the famine, a yearly feast -- consisting
of pasta, bread, egg dishes, fish, vegetables and desserts
-- is now prepared in his honor. St. Joseph's Tables, as the
feast is referred to, can be found in churches, restaurants,
homes, and banquet halls across the country.
In Italy, St. Joseph's Day is also meant to honor all fathers,
as, according to the Christian Bible, St. Joseph was the husband
of Mary and the earthy father of Jesus, and March 19 is his
"It's a time of getting together, kind of like Thanksgiving,"
says Antonino Pollaro, president of the St. Joseph Society
in Lodi, N.J. in USA Weekend.
What might you find on a traditional St. Joseph's Table?
St. Joseph's pasta, which is spaghetti with a meatless
red sauce, anchovies or sardines, topped with breadcrumbs.
The breadcrumbs represent sawdust, a tie to the "working
man." (All of the dishes are made without meat because
the holiday falls during Lent, when Catholics do not eat
Elaborate loaves of bread shaped like St. Joseph's staff.
Breaded, fried vegetables, particularly cardoon (aka
artichoke thistle), and stuffed artichokes.
Zeppole, a cherry-topped cream puff, and sfinci (fried dough).
Dried fava beans. These aren't eaten, but rather given
away as a sign of good luck because they were one of the
foods that made it through the famine in Sicily.
During the feast, people in need, such as orphans, the elderly
or the homeless, are often invited to share the food and celebration.
Any leftover food is traditionally given away or sold, with
the profits donated to help the poor.
Zeppole, puff-pastry filled with ricotta cheese, vanilla
cream or chocolate, is one of the most popular St. Joseph's
Day treats. Look for them at Italian bakeries during
the month of March.
In the United States, red is the color that signifies St.
Joseph's Day (the reason for this is not known, though it
may simply be to rival the green worn on St. Patrick's Day).
In areas with European ancestry, you may even find red beer,
red flowers and red bread being sold to commemorate the day.
If you're looking for a St. Joseph's Day celebration, one
of the largest every year takes place in New Orleans, where
there is an elaborate St. Joseph's Day Parade, complete with
food, dancing and fava beans. If you're interested in attending,
you'll have to wait until next year; this year's parade was
early and took place on March 8.
Though typically a Roman Catholic tradition, the generous
spirit of St. Joseph's Day appeals to many who want to take
time to give thanks, and help those who are less fortunate.
And as one Czech proverb says:
"If it is nice on St. Joseph's Day, it will usually
be a good year."
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