Friday, March 19, 2010

St. Joseph's Day

The Life of St. Joseph

Relatively little is known about the life of St. Joseph except for what is written in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The genealogy of both Gospels place him in the line of David. Though St. Joseph was descended from royalty, it was not a title to rank or riches. Everything known about Joseph suggests he was poor, for example, the offering of only two turtle doves at the Temple. Joseph's family belonged to Bethlehem of Judea, but he had moved to Nazareth in Galilee to take up the occupation of a builder. There is no reason to suggest he was older than a normal age of 20-24 when he wed Mary, who would have been 15-20. Matthew mentions the annunciation to Joseph of Mary's conception, the visit of the Magi, the flight to Egypt and the return to Nazareth. Luke fills in the details of the birth of Christ, the Presentation and the temporary loss of Jesus in Jerusalem at the age of twelve. After that, Joseph disappears from the pages of the Gospel. Since he is not mentioned during the ministry of Jesus or at the Passion, it is assumed that he had already died by that point.
Other stories surround the life of Joseph, but most are believed to have been invented to satisfy popular curiosity. Some of these stories include a first marriage where Joseph was widowed, his great age (111 years) and his protracted death where he receives comfort from Mary and Jesus. The Gospels are really the only reliable source of information on Joseph's life and though they are brief, they give a good outline of his character. St. Joseph was a faithful, patient man, obedient to the demands of God and willingly accepting of hardships. Matthew calls him "a just man", illustrated by his loyalty in protecting and providing for his family. In 1870, Pope Pius IX proclaimed Joseph as the Patron of the universal Church, honoring his role of support, protection and guidance and named March 19 as "the [heavenly] birthday of St Joseph". Pius XII added a second feast of Joseph the Worker, which is celebrated May 1st, the traditional Labor Day. (source:

The Holiday

Many believe March 19th (St. Joseph's Day) is Joseph's birthday. Those with strong religious association and or of Southern Italian descent typically celebrate the day. The origin of this holiday traces back to Sicily, where St. Joseph is regarded by many as their patron saint. Thanks are given to St. Joseph for preventing a famine in Sicily. According to legend, there was a severe draught at the time and the people prayed for their patron saint to bring them rain. They promised that if he answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast to honor him. The rain did come and the people of Sicily prepared a large banquet for their patron Saint. The fava bean was the crop which saved the population from starvation, and is a traditional part of St. Joseph's Day altars and traditions. Giving food to the needy is a St. Joseph's Day custom. In some communities, it is traditional to wear red clothing and eat sfinge/zeppole on St. Jospeh's Day.

Upon a typical St. Jospeh's altar, people place flowers, limes, candles, wine, fava beans, specially prepared cakes, breads & cookies (as well as other meatless
dishes), and zeppole. There is also a St. Joesph statue centerpice. Foods are traditionally served containing bread crumbs to represent saw dust since St. Joseph was a carpenter. Because the feast
occurs during Lent, traditionally no meat was allowed on the celebration table. The altar usually has three tiers to represent the holy trinity. (source: and family)

Well, enough history and explanation. Go find someone named Joe, pull his ear and eat a sfinge/zeppole.

Related Posts:
St. Joseph Bread

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