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Viva St. Joseph
by Judy Perin
St. Joseph is the 'Adoptive' Father of Jesus and the Husband of the Virgin Mary. He is the Patron Saint of Carpenters, house buyers and sellers, fathers, confectioners, wheelwrights, working people and numerous countries and cities including Austria, Canada, Mexico, Sicily and Turin and Florence Italy.
The Feast of St. Joseph began in Sicily when during the middle ages the country was hit with drought and famine. The people of Sicily asked their Patron Saint, Joseph, to intervene. If he intervened and ended the drought the people of Sicily would have a feast honoring him. When the rain came and the crops grew the people of Italy saw that their prayers had been answered they began to prepare their feast in St. Joseph's honor.
On March 19th each year, St. Joseph's Day Altars are erected to continue the homage and devotion for St. Joseph's intervention during the drought. As in the first feast, the Altar is set up in three tiers honoring the Holy Trinity, a statue of St. Joseph is placed on the top tier, surrounded by flowers and candles. Below his statue are a blanket of foods from pasta to olive oil to fava beans to Saint Joseph's Day baked goods. Symbolic St. Joseph's Dough Pastries filled with a fig mixture shaped as Monstrances, Hearts, Baskets, Fish and St. Joseph's staff, are also placed on the altar. No meats are placed on the altar as a result of St. Joseph's Day occurring during the Lenten season.
St. Joseph's Day Breads or Pane di San Giuseppe or Cuccadati, are baked to be placed on the altar. The St. Joseph's Day breads are made into various shapes, such as Wreaths representing the Crown of Thorns, and St. Joseph's Staff representing his walking stick. Along with Saint Joseph's Day Breads there are also breads shaped like Doves and breads wrapped around died eggs called Dough Babies. Pastries such as Zeppole di San Giuseppe or Saint Joseph's Day Cream Puffs are made, along with Italian Doughnuts called Zeppole and fried dough balls called Strufoli. Cookies such as Biscotti and Italian Love Knots and cakes such as Sfinge de San Giuseppe, Lamb Cakes and Bible Shaped Cakes also appear on the altar.
Once the Festival is about to begin a local Catholic priest comes to bless the altar and all of it's food. The Virgineddi or children portraying the Holy Family, are the first to taste all of the food on the altar. As each item is tasted by the Virgineddi, a drumroll is sounded and Viva San Giuseppe is shouted to cast away all of the evil spirits. As the festival ends the Virgineddi cut a blessed loaf of bread into pieces and give them to all who are in attendance. Legend has it that if you eat a piece of the bread you will have good fortune.
St. Joseph's Day is a day of feasting, happiness and the getting together of friends and family. I hoped you enjoyed my article on St. Joseph's Day. As they say at the St. Joseph's Day Feasts, May St. Joseph Always Smile Upon Us.
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