Note: Much sadder than closing saloons to St. Patrick’s Day puke parties, is the curtailment of St. Joseph’s Day Table feasts, the wonderful tradition of sharing food with all who are hungry, for the second year in a row. In some areas Catholic churches are able to offer the traditional feasts or find other ways to share, but many are unable to do so again. Perhaps this year those who are young, healthy, and mobile can carry the tradition to the doors of those in need.
This is how many meals from St. Joseph's Table will be shared this year--packaged for home delivery to those isolated by the Coronavirus emergency. You don't have to be Catholic to share food and bring joy and comfort.
St. Joseph’s Day is celebrated annually on March 19. Joseph, the husband of Mary—does that make him Jesus’s stepfather?—is the Patron Saint of Poland, of carpenters, workers of all kinds, and of assorted other things. In many Latin countries it is also the occasion to celebrate fathers.
Joseph is particularly revered in Sicily where he is credited with bringing an end to a drought and famine in the Middle Ages. Devotion to him spread through southern Italy and was brought to the United States by emigrants. Sicilians, who arrived in New Orleans in the late 19th Century promoted wide spread celebrations in that city. On the East Coast, particularly in Providence, Rhode Island, there are sometimes major parades featuring the wearing o’ the red—St. Joseph’s color—as more than a subtle tweak of the Irish, who attracted a lot of attention with their little festival two days earlier. These parades actually were shows of political clout as the Italians muscled the Irish out of control of city governments.St. Joseph's Day is not just for Italians and Poles. Here is an ethnic Czeck parade in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Politics aside, the main feature of the celebration is St. Joseph’s Table, a feast set out in thanks for the miracle of saving Sicily. Usually laid out buffet style and decorated with the good Saint’s statue, lily blossoms, and votive candles. Food includes elaborate meatless offerings—it is Lent after all—including stuffed artichokes, pasta and fish, as well as breads, cookies, pastries, cakes and other delicacies. Fava beans, the food St. Joseph provided to relieve the famine, are prominently featured.
What makes the St. Joseph Table different from other feasts is that it is supposed to be laid out for the poor, homeless, and oppressed. None are turned away. You don’t have to go to mass or even be Catholic. You can smell like Richard’s Wild Irish Rose and stale piss, be covered in tattoos with nails piercing your face. Who knows? You can even be Gay or have had an abortion. Come. Eat. Share with us.
What a great holiday!