Faith is an important part of Italian traditions. Each religious festival is rooted in their strong history. On March 19th the Italians, and those around the world, honor Saint Joseph with a feast. The feast of Saint Joseph is also, fittingly, Father’s Day in Italy.
Saint Joseph Table (Altar) Legends
The stories that explain the traditional Saint Joseph’s table differ throughout the regions.
In Sicily, it is said that during the Middle Ages, a drought killed the crops and families were starving. The faithful followed tradition and began praying to Saint Joseph for his intercession. In return for his help, they promised a feast in his name. The drought soon ended, and the season’s crops were planted. As promised they prepared a beautiful table to honor his intercession. The tradition continues to this day, Italians prepare a Saint Joseph’s table of thanks every year on his feast day.
In Lipari, the legend says that sailors were caught in a storm at sea. They prayed to Saint Joseph for help and promised a day of honor in return. This tradition in Lipari is still practiced today, as well.
Saint Joseph Table Traditions
Whichever, story you prefer, the tradition of the Saint Joseph’s table has lasted over the years and is a favorite celebration in Italy and the United States as well. These beautiful offering tables are found in homes, churches, clubs and cafes.
The first thing you will notice about the Saint Joseph’s table is the extravagance and beauty. Traditionally, the table has three layers, representing the Holy Trinity. Each layer was decorated with flowers and fruit and of course many donated and requested foods are displayed.
All of these beautiful items surround a statue of Saint Joseph. On his feast day an open house is held, and family and friends gather to celebrate the gifts.
Some of the traditional foods found on the table are fava beans and lemons for good luck, braided breads, fish, and delicious deserts. Breadcrumbs are served in place of parmigiano to resemble the sawdust left from Saint Joseph’s work as a carpenter.
How to Celebrate Saint Joseph's Day
If you can find a Saint Joseph’s table in your area, they are a beautiful tradition.
If you want to enjoy some of the traditional Saint Joseph’s day foods in your home, here are some great recipes to try.