St. Joseph’s Day History And Traditions: Facts You May Not Know About And The Largely Italian-American Feast

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St. Joseph's Day is a feast celebrated on March 19, largely by Italian-Americans. Reuters

While many people are much more familiar with the celebration of St. Patrick on March 17, there is another saint who can be praised by Western Christians in the month of March: St. Joseph. His day always occurs on March 19.

In the New Testament, St. Joseph is the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the stepfather of Jesus of Nazareth/Jesus Christ. His feast day is celebrated as a sort of Father’s Day in some Catholic countries like Portugal, Spain and Italy. For some, it’s also recognized as the name day for people named Joseph or Josephine.

Many Italian-Americans, especially Sicilians, celebrate St. Joseph, since he is regarded as their patron saint. Joseph (San Giuseppe) is believed to have prevented a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages. That’s why large feasts are typically held on March 19 in his honor. It’s customary to wear all red on this day, the same way green in worn on St. Patrick’s Day, FishEaters.com wrote.

People bring a variety of food to the table, but the altar is also donned with flowers, candles and wine: this is known as “St. Joseph’s Table” or “la tavola di San Giuseppe." Fava beans are one of the most important items to be brought to the table since during a drought the crop thrived while others failed, FishEaters.com wrote. Also, food containing breadcrumbs is usually served since the breadcrumbs represent saw dust, and St. Joseph was a carpenter. Meat is usually never shared since the feast typically takes place during Lent.

Lemons, like fava beans, are also imperative on the St. Joseph’s Table since they’re reputed to bring good luck. NOLA.com wrote women who want to get married should look for lemons to secretly steal from the altar since it will help them get a husband. St. Joseph’s Day is also very popular in New Orleans, the news site wrote, since the Louisiana city was a major port of immigration for Italians from Sicily in the late 19th century. At the time, the French Quarter was even nicknamed “Little Palermo.”

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