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Saint Joseph Day

Updated on October 20, 2014

The Holy Family

Saint Joseph Feast

Doe March 19 mean anything to anybody anymore? For me it was always the day before my birthday until I married into an Italian family from Chicago. March 19 to the Italians is a huge feast date, called The Feast of St. Joseph or is formally named the Solemnity of Saint Joseph Spouse of The Blessed Virgin Mary, the traditional day in the Western Church.

Who is Saint Joseph

A little history of Joseph, Joseph was a carpenter by trade that was born and brought up in Bethlehem. It has been said that Joseph may have been a widower with grown children since he was much older at the time when he was betrothed to Mary. Joseph was visited by an angel from heaven when Mary found out she was pregnant. Joseph was very confused and when this angel came the angel explained to Joseph what was taking place.

After the birth of Jesus Joseph was visited in a dream, he was told to pack up his family and move them to Egypt in order to escape the wrath of Herod. Later in scripture Joseph was visited again and told to pack up the family again and move to the land of Israel. We only hear one more time in scripture of Joseph and that was when Joseph and Mark thought Jesus was lost in the Temple, Luke 2:42-52.

In the Catholic Church March 19th has been declared the St. Joseph Feast Day. Saint Joseph was one of the most loved saints among the Italian Americans. He is honored as the protector of families, and the patron of workers.

What makes a person a Saint?

What makes a person a Saint?

There are over 10,000 named saints from history but the church really does not keep a head count of all the saints. Saints have been canonized through the churches process only since the tenth century. In 1983 the Catholic church especially Pope John Paul II changed the rules of canonization. Now the process starts after death of a Catholic whom has been held in regard as holy. While it can take years and years and a lot of effort to be canonized, not every holy person is canonized, but the people that have been canonized are now saints.

New York St. Joseph Celebrations

In New York as would be expected since a large part of the population is Italian American, the St. Joseph celebrations start with a Holy Mass and prayer. Many family traditions and recipes are used for the preparation of food, puff pastries, deep fried cookies, cream puffs, and other meatless foods and meals. The celebrations are a mixture of good food, family gatherings, fellowship with other Catholics, and a time of prayers and Holy Mass.

Saint Joseph Table

The Saint Joseph Table

Saint Joseph Table

The legend go’s that a terrible famine took place in Sicily many centuries ago. The people living in the village prayed to the foster father to Jesus which was Saint Joseph. They asked the Saint to intercede to the Father for a relief of the famine. There prayers were answered and the great famine was over. Since then there has been great celebrations and feast to honor Saint Joseph for ending the famine.

In Chicago where a large population of the people are Italian. Being from the area it was tradition to see many churches and families have a huge feast and celebration honoring Saint John for delivering the people of scili from the dreadful famine. Large alters laced with all kinds of food and pastries will be on display. Tables filled with elaborate food including meatless dishes, pasta with breadcrumbs, fish, stuffed artichokes, all sorts of homemade bread which is twisted to mimic the St. Joseph staff. Deserts are prepared consisting of cannoli, sfinges, red wine cookies, pignolatti, and biscotti of all different flavors. The tables are decorated with lace table covers, lily blossoms, and candles.

St. Joseph Bread

Bread for St. Joseph Day

Beside the alter for Saint Joseph being the most important element for the feast table the next item would be the breads that are used to decorate the alter. The St. Joseph bread is part of the ancient tradition of shaped celebratory breads found in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Breads are shaped in the form of staffs, a hand, a cross and animals that would have been around the infant child Jesus at birth. The shapes of the bread are too represent the life of St. Joseph at the time of Jesus life here on earth.

Saint Joseph Soup

Foods for St. Joseph Day Feast

Eating is the next big thing for the St. Joseph Day Celebration. Many recipes are used according to the traditions of the families that put on the celebration feast. Here are a couple recipes that are used for the feast day.

Minestrone (serves 4)

1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup celery, with leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can of tomatoes, with juice
1 large can white beans (Cannellini beans or Navy beans)
5 cups beef or vegetable stock
1/2 cup flat parsley, finely chopped
1 cup finely sliced, then roughly chopped Swiss Chard (or spinach or cabbage, or some combination)
2 zucchini, unpeeled and cut into little cubes
1/2 cup small pasta (like ditalini)
For garnish: freshly-grated Parmesan cheese

Sauté the onion and celery in the oil till wilted, toss in garlic and stir for a minute, then put in cut-up tomatoes and cook down for about 10 minutes to concentrate flavors. Stir in beef stock, reserved tomato juice, and beans and bring to a boil. Add half the parsley, lower heat, and cook for about 30 minutes.

Add Swiss chard (or spinach or cabbage), zucchini, and pasta and cook at a gentle boil until pasta is tender.

When ready to serve, stir in the rest of the parsley. Season to taste and grate in some black pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve with the parmesan and a crusty bread.


Fava Beans

1 lb. dried fava beans
1 bunch green onions
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
chopped parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook dried fava beans in boiling water until tender, adding more water as needed. Sauté seasonings in olive oil 'til tender, then add to beans. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in soup bowls.

Fava Beans

Have you ever visited a Saint Joseph Celebration, if so we would love to hear about your experiences?

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