General Discussion

Do you celebrate St. Joseph's Day where you live?

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General Discussion

Do you celebrate St. Joseph's Day where you live?

cdB | Mar 21, 2002 12:24 AM

Here in New Orleans, St Joseph's Day, March 19, is a very big deal. We have lots of Sicilian-based altars, most given in private homes, where the public is invited to see an amazing array of scripturally based breads and other symbolic foods arrayed on a family personalized altar. The host of the altar offers a plate lunch of Lenten dishes, always featuring pasta with "red gravy" (aka tomato sauce) sprinkled with "sawdust" (seasoned breadcrumbs) to commemorate Joseph's trade as a carpenter. Everybody also gets a little bags of delicious Italian cookies.

All the altars are unique, even though there are many similarities. Often one sees cakes made to look like white lambs, and a huge array of symbolic breads. Every home has a unique decorating sensibility, and deeper reasons why they give an altar to the Saint. Family and friends, and strangers gather at the altars to pass a good time, to have fun in a relaxed yet honest spirituality. That's the way we do it down here, and I'm curious if other cities celebrate their Italian identity on Saint Joseph's Day in similar manner.

We also have the wonderous spectacle of our Mardi Gras Indians masking on the streets on the "Super Sunday" closest to St Joseph's Day, but that is another whole ball of cultural phenomena only to be experienced in New Orleans. For the altars mentioned above, I know that the overwhelming immigration of Sicilians as far and away the largest group of Italians who made New Orleans their home gives our St. Joseph's Day a particular cultural angle. Other Italian communities might focus on other saints and holidays, but St. Joseph's Day has always been a signature event of the Sicilian community.

So is anything like these wonderful altars of New Orleans going on elsewhere in America on March 19?

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