Every year, we sponsor a St. Joseph’s dinner. The traditional multi-tier altar and the St. Joseph’s table become the centerpiece of this evening of love and devotion to St. Joseph. The alter is adorned with foods, fruits, desserts and bread. After the image of St. Joseph, bread is the most important component of the altar. The St. Joseph’s bread is seen as transcending its daily role as a staple food and becomes a way of celebrating the sacred and life itself.
Some feel that keeping the blessed St. Joseph’s bread in the home will be protection against fire, lightning and other misfortunes. This is similar to the custom of keeping a piece of blessed palm in the house from each Palm Sunday to the next as a protection against misfortune.
Most of the food is donated by local merchants and cooked by club members. Proceeds from the sale of the tickets are donated to local charitable organizations.
St. Joseph’s Day
In Italy, people began to remember St. Joseph on March 19, 1030. Today in Italy, March 19th is also Father’s Day.
St. Joseph is the greatest saint in the Catholic church next to his wife Mary. His main traditional feast day is March 19th to honor him as the foster father of Jesus Christ and the husband of Mary. His secondary feast day is May 1st, St. Joseph the worker. Although March 19th is not a holy day of obligation, Catholics particularly Italian Catholics, celebrate this feast day which is preceded by a nine day novena. The feast day began in Sicily in the middle ages when there was a terrible drought. The people were beginning to die from starvation and decided to pray to St. Joseph to send rain for their crops. They made a promise that if he sent them rain they would give a feast every year to feed anyone who came, particularly the poor. St. Joseph heard their plea and miraculously the heavens opened up. The rain came which put an end to their drought and subsequently an end to their starvation.
How is St. Joseph’s Day celebrated in Italy?
Generosity marks this day, as it did the character of Joseph himself. It is a day of sharing with the poor and needy. In many Italian towns and villages, especially in Sicily, houses have food displayed on a traditional St. Joseph’s table.
The St. Joseph’s table consists of many traditional staples. The feast is often meatless because meat was considered a luxury food. The food items on the St. Joseph’s table are fish to symbolize penance and sacrifice, fava beans as a remembrance of St. Joseph and his blessings upon them, rice which symbolizes the humility of St. Joseph and how he used basic things to provide for the Holy Family, and AgroDolce (a sweet and sour sauce) which symbolizes feast and famine. Pasta with bread crumbs is served. The use of bread crumbs is symbolic of sawdust because St. Joseph is traditionally known as being a carpenter. Red wine is also served to symbolize the sacrificial outpouring of the blood of Jesus.
The St. Joseph altar is an intrinsic part of the Table. It is erected in three levels to symbolize the most blessed Trinity. It is adorned with a statue of St. Joseph holding the infant Jesus, candles, religious articles, pictures of the Holy Family, a crucifix, carpenter’s tools, and Lily flowers which symbolize chastity and purity. Some St. Joseph’s altars also contain the foods for the feast. Tradition teaches that as soon as the food and the altar are prepared, a priest will come to bless them and those who prepared the meal.