How the Feast Day of St. Joseph is Celebrated

traditional table st. joseph

This year’s St. Patrick’s Day is finally over. Now, we must wait another year for corned beef, cabbage, green beer and shamrock-shaped cookies. But while the Irish saint’s day has passed, today marks another saint’s day that is celebrated with food and drinks – the Feast of St. Joseph.

Many people around the world today will celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph, or La Festa di San Giuseppe. It’s commemorated every March 19th and the holiday roots back to the Middle Ages, when Sicily underwent a major drought that led to a massive famine. The locals prayed to their patron saint to bring them relief in the form of rain. In exchange, they vowed to honor St. Joseph (the husband of the Virgin Mary) with a proper banquet. Sure enough, he answered their prayers. As the locals promised, they feasted on local foods such as fava beans, which thrived after the rain, and a lot of sweet treats. Since the feast occurs in the middle of Lent season, it is a meatless celebration.

Tonight, many Italian homes will surely fill their tables with fig dishes and cookies. Other traditional food that are prepared for St. Joseph’s Day are the popular and classic Italian doughnuts like zeppole and sfingi. These are dough fritters covered in sugar that everybody loves. Depending on where they are eaten, they can just be simple fried doughnuts with holes, custard-filled, jelly-filled, or they can be the equivalent of cream puffs made from choux pastry, similar to the French profiterole. These pastries are always made during this feast day because it also honors St. Joseph as the patron saint of pastry chefs and fry cooks.

zeppole st joseph sfingi for st. joseph

Classic Italian sweet treats: zeppole (left) and sfingi (right)

Large Italian-American communities, especially Sicilian populations, are usually based in the cities of New York and New Orleans, Louisiana. These cities received a flood of immigrants in the 19th century. Up until today, New York and New Orleans indeed celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph with grand parades, processions, and parties.


Buon Mangiata!


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