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How To Celebrate St. Joseph’s Feast Day

Updated on May 14, 2013

Statue of Saint Joseph and Baby Jesus at Chapelle de la rue du Bac

St. Joseph is frequently depicted holding the Baby Jesus and/or with his associated flower, the lily.
St. Joseph is frequently depicted holding the Baby Jesus and/or with his associated flower, the lily. | Source

St. Joseph Day 2013 Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange

Who Is Saint Joseph?

In Roman Catholic and Christian traditions, Saint Joseph is the husband of the Virgin Mary and the foster father of Jesus Christ. Saint Joseph was born in Bethlehem and was a carpenter by trade, a vocation that he passed on to Jesus. At first, when he discovered Mary was with child, he was reluctant to marry her. In fact, he seriously considered having her put away, to spare her the humiliation of having a child out of wedlock (and, he was probably thinking, to spare her from the condemnation of the sin of adultery, as he knew the child was not his own). But an angel of God came to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

Saint Joseph's Feast Days

The two Roman Catholic Feast Days for Saint Joseph, spouse of the Virgin Mary and foster father of Jesus Christ are:

  • March 19th
  • May 1st


Six Ways To Celebrate St. Joseph's Day, March 19th

  1. Attend Mass.
  2. Feed the hungry and poor.
  3. Make a St. Joseph's Table or Altar.
  4. Give a gift to someone in your family, or to a friend, named Joseph or Josephine; today is their name day!
  5. March in a parade.
  6. Eat zeppole!

Joseph as Patron Saint

Since he served as virtuous protector of Our Lady and of Jesus, he is venerated by Roman Catholics as the Patron Saint of the entire Church. Roman Catholics believe he died in the presence of Our Lady and Her Son, Jesus, and, so, because of this he is the Patron Saint of a holy (or “good”) death. Joseph, because of his carpenter’s trade, is the Patron Saint of Workers; this is why one of his two Feast Days is May 1st (the International Day of the Worker). He is also the Patron Saint of Confectioners (candy and chocolate makers, not of pastry chefs, as popularly believed).

Did you know…

…that March 19th, Saint Joseph’s Day, is also the day that the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano every year? The swallows migrate from San Juan Capistrano, the Spanish Mission built in California, by the Franciscan Junípero Serra, to Goya, Argentina in the Fall.

March 19th, Feast of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Roman Catholics have celebrated the Feast day of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, since its institution as a holy day of obligation, in 1621. But it is also celebrated by Orthodox and Protestant Christians worldwide. Pope Pius IX made St. Joseph the Patron Saint of the Universal Church in 1870. Saint Joseph is also the Roman Catholic patron saint of fathers (dads), the family, the New World, a good (holy) death, social justice and confectioners. This Feast Day, March 19th, is celebrated in many parts of the world, including Italy (mainly in the south), Poland, and the United States. In southern Italy (the island of Sicily and the cities of Naples and Rome, in particular) and parts of the United States (such as the East Coast – particularly Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York -, Chicago, and wherever Italian – or Roman Catholic - immigration was strong), the feast day includes traditions such as marching in parades, giving to the poor and needy, eating zeppole and setting la tavola di San Giuseppe, Saint Joseph’s Table, for the community. The City of New Orleans, in the United States, also has a long-standing tradition of honoring Saint Joseph’s Day on March 19th by creating St. Joseph’s Day altars.

Everyone Loves a Parade: St Joseph Day Parade in New Orleans 3 19 11

Even Supermarkets offer zeppole on March 19, St. Joseph's Day!

In Italian-American suburbs of Boston, even chain supermarket bakeries - like this Stop and Shop in Revere -  have zeppole on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph!
In Italian-American suburbs of Boston, even chain supermarket bakeries - like this Stop and Shop in Revere - have zeppole on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph! | Source

Zeppole Shells at Modern Pastry (Boston, MA)

Zeppole shells waiting to be filled with your choice of whipped cream, ricotta cream, or the traditional crema pasticcera (bavarian cream) and topped with italian sour - morello - cherries...a St. Joseph's Day tradition in Naples since the 1800s!
Zeppole shells waiting to be filled with your choice of whipped cream, ricotta cream, or the traditional crema pasticcera (bavarian cream) and topped with italian sour - morello - cherries...a St. Joseph's Day tradition in Naples since the 1800s! | Source

Zeppole on March 19th, the Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary

Zeppole (also called sfinge or sfinci, bigné di San Giuseppe, crispelli, zippuli (in Sicilian), or St. Joseph’s Day cakes) are pastry shells (fried or baked pâte à choux, puff pastry) filled with crema pasticcera (Bavarian or custard cream), ricotta cream (like the cream used to fill cannoli), or sweetened whipped cream and, in the truest Italian fashion, topped with a jam or syrup of Italian sour cherries, or morello cherries. Sometimes, at least in the United States, they are topped with maraschino cherries. [Note: however, try to get the real morello cherry topping, or use your own jams, because maraschino cherries are especially unhealthy as they contain a high level of sulphur dioxide.]

History and Origins of Zeppole

The word zeppola (in the singular, or zeppole in the plural Italian) seems to come from the Arabic zalābiyaa, which means “soft, fried dough,” and is a delicacy that can still be found today in Egypt, for example. In Tunisia, they are called yūyūand in Algeria, khafaf. The other Italian name for these pastries is sfince or sfinge. This name is also derived from the Arabic, sifanj, in turn derived from the Arabic word for sponge, also a soft-yeasted fried bread, served with honey and sugar, made in North Africa.

Although zeppole seem to have around in Italy since at least the 1300s (fourteenth century), it took a Neapolitan pastry chef to make them a popular tradition even to this day. At the beginning of the nineteenth century (the early 1800s), Pasquale Pintauro had the brilliant idea of frying zeppole outside his pastry shop. Eating zeppole seems to have remained popular, in Naples and abroad, to this day, although the custom of frying them in the open and giving most of them away (another tradition of St. Joseph’s Feast Day is feeding the hungry and poor) has been lost.

La Tavola di San Giuseppe or Saint Joseph's Table

St. Joseph Altars: New revelations about the traditions and culture

May 1st, Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker

This Feast Day in honor of Saint Joseph was instituted by Pope Pius XII in 1955, most likely as a measure against the spread of Communism, which dedicated this day to International Worker's Solidarity. It is fitting that May 1st be dedicated to Saint Joseph because, through his work as a carpenter, Joseph supported Mary and Jesus and May is the month of Mary, Joseph's wife and the Holy Mother of God.

There are no large celebrations or traditions associated with this Feast Day of Saint Joseph, however, except to attend Mass and pray for workers everywhere.

Celebrating St. Joseph's Day Poll

How do you celebrate St. Joseph's Day?

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  • maryspaul profile image

    maryspaul 3 years ago from ASIA

    Very interesting Pat! Thanks for sharing.

  • everymom profile image
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    Anahi Pari-di-Monriva 4 years ago from Massachusetts

    Thank you so much, Patricia, for reading and for the Angels you sent my way! Sending a few your way (and to your family), too! Have a blessed and peaceful Easter!

  • pstraubie48 profile image

    Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

    This is very interesting. And it is a new celebration to me. So I am glad I stopped by and learned of this. It is very interesting read how it began and has evolved. The zeppole look and sound like they are a tasty treat.

    Have a lovely Easter weekend...

    Sending Angels to you this morning. :) ps

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