Every March Catholics around the world, and pretty much every Italian man, woman, and child will be celebrating one of the most important days in Italian culture – St. Joseph’s Day. As in Italian man, Frank Camuso has grown up looking forward to St. Joseph’s day, and the feast that generally accompanies it. Especially growing up in the mostly Italian borough of Staten Island, Frank Camuso and pretty much every kid on his block were anxiously awaiting what their mother would be making for St. Joseph’s Day.
San Giuseppe, as Sicilians know him, is the Patron Saint of Workers and during a time of immense drought, crop devastation, and overall widespread hunger – peasants lined the streets of Sicily praying to St. Joseph hoping that it would rain – a tradition that dates all the way back to middle ages. Frank Camuso can remember hearing his mother growing up, praying that it would rain – probably to get out of a trip to her in-laws.
So as the story goes, the peasants promised that if indeed the droughts ended, and the crops came back, they would throw an incredible feast in honor of both God, and St. Joseph. And therein started the tradition of a tremendous Italian feast marking St. Joseph’s Day. St. Joseph’s Day like smaller Catholic holidays associated with the saints, has a number of little quirks and interesting traditions associated with it, especially when it comes to food! As Frank Camuso says, “St. Joseph’s Day is the most Italian day of the year, full of food, family, the church, and random superstitions.” So here are 6 important food items to know for St. Joseph’s Day this year, and pretty much every other year as well!
Fava Beans – Superstition to the Max
One of the most interesting superstitions Frank Camuso was referring to be the use of “lucky” Fava beans, ironically blessed by the Father or Priest. The blessing makes them lucky, so Italians, especially on St. Joseph’s Day should carry them around – granting them the overall good fortune and to never go broke.
Italians breadcrumbs thought breadcrumbs resemble sawdust, so for good luck, and as a nod to Joseph’s job as a carpenter, on St. Joseph’s Day you put breadcrumbs everywhere. (again….because they are supposed to resemble sawdust)
The traditional meal for St. Joseph’s Day and Frank Camuso and his family’s favorite pasta coarse. Every Italian should at least order some in for the day. Sardines, pine nuts, raising, currants – traditional Sicilian fare at its best.
Citrus Fruits Galore
Make sure to brighten up your family feast with as many citrus fruits as possible. Includes St. Joseph’s Day and Frank Camuso favorites like oranges, limes, lemons, and even the blood orange!
San Giuseppe Bread
A specialty loaf designed just for this day. Most bakeries on Staten Island and other Italians areas will have it. Includes a cross or shepherds staff emblazoned on the top.
Keeping with the Italian bakery theme. Sfinci is an Italian specialty pastry made for St. Joseph’s Day. Also a favorite of Frank Camuso and his family, the pastry includes fried zeppole piped with the rich custard or cannoli cream sprinkled generously with powdered sugar. It is pronounced SU-FEEN-GEE for those who didn’t know.
St. Joseph’s Day might be a long way away, but its never to early to get ready for a close family, Italian or not! Find out more about all the amazing feasts in Italian culture.