Last month our homeschool group made these decorative breads to prepare for the St. Joseph celebration that we had today. Saint Joseph is the the foster-father of Jesus and St. Joseph's feast day is celebrated each year on March 19th. For the past 8 years our homeschool group has celebrated this special feast day and it is a blessed time to have our families and friends come together to honor the man who was called by God to raise Jesus here on earth.
It is a tradition to prepare a St. Joseph altar in a home where the decorative breads, food, and desserts are placed. The altar has 3 levels to symbolize the Blessed Trinity-the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Here are a couple of pictures from our altar today at the host families home:
The people of Sicily prayed. For too long there had been no rain to nourish the crops that sustained life for most on the island. The dried out wheat stalks cracked beneath the feet of the poor farmers as they walked through the barren fields. Only a sea of dust and withered vines remained from what had once been row upon row of brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
And so the people prayed.
They pleaded to St. Joseph, their patron, for relief from the terrible famine that gripped the island. At last the skies opened, sending down the life-giving water. The people rejoiced! Some time later, to show their gratitude, they prepared a table with a special assortment of foods they had harvested. After paying honor to St. Joseph, they distributed the food to the less fortunate.
The first St. Joseph Altar set up on the Island of Sicily was a small one, of course. But as time went on and the tradition took hold, the flamboyant nature and creative spirit of the Italians caused the altars to grow larger and more ornate.
Today, the artistic quality of breads, cookies and pastries, which are baked in such shapes as chalices, staffs and pyramids, often rivals the exquisite flavor of these food offerings.
Though Sicilian immigrants introduced the custom to America, the celebration is not confined to any nationality. Rather, it has become a public event which its devoted participants embrace for a host of private and personal reasons. The feast is alternately a source of petition and thanksgiving.
During the Middle Ages, people would abstain from eating meat throughout the entire season of Lent. (Now Catholics abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent). In the past, people would eat local grown vegetables, bread, seafood. Since St. Joseph's Feast Day falls during Lent each year, our altars have all meatless dishes just like the altars had so long ago: pastas, fruit, bread, vegetable dishes, salads, pastries, cookies. Also, St. Joseph's Feast Day is a Solemnity, or a celebration of a holy day, so anyone who gave up certain foods (like sweets) can partake in all the goodies for this special day!
Before we enjoyed all the feasting and fellowship, our homeschool group invited a local priest to give a blessing and everyone prayed a Litany of St. Joseph. It is interesting to note that our priest friend is Polish and he had never celebrated St. Joseph's feast day himself. He was very happy to take part in such a wonderful celebration that our homeschool group opened up to our families, friends, and community.
Here are some traditional dishes on St. Joseph altars that everyone today enjoyed eating:
Country Italian Cookbook.
We were blessed to share this special feast day with my parents who attend each year. My father's grandparents are from Sicily. My father's grandmother's cousin (got all that?) had a daughter who had polio and she was very sick. The family prayed for St. Joseph's protection and intercession and the parents of the sick girl vowed to honor St. Joseph in a special way if their daughter got well. The young girl did get well and her parent's began the tradition of St. Joseph Altars in East Boston where my father is from. This couple kept the tradition of the altars going for 28 years.
My father has many fond memories of celebrating St. Joseph's Feast Day with his family and here are some photos of their altars:
I am linking this post to The Virtual St. Joseph Altar Blog . Just click button below to see other beautiful St. Joseph Altars!
Please join Lynda, Anna-Marie and myself for March's No Ordinary Blog Hop (NOBH). You can link up any or all your posts for the entire month of March. The blogger with the most posts will be awarded a Star Blogger Award and each post will be an entry to a great giveaway! Click below for details!
What a great post Tracy I loved how your family celebrates St Joseph's Day. Seeing photos from the past was so inspiring as well as hearing the story of recovery. I learned so much from this post. I love the idea of the children baking the bread to decorate the alter. Food looks so good and colorful. Just love it Thanks for sharing!!!!
What a great post...thanks for sharing on my Lent link up at Equipping Catholic Families.
I love the pictures of your father and the St Joseph altar. What a wonderful tradition.
We love St Joseph in our family too...but we haven't had a St Joseph altar...even though my son Joseph has a couple statues. I think it's not too late... =)
Terrific post, Tracy! Our daughter, Hope, was born on this very special feast day. I had two miscarriages before Hope, and I was very anxious. I prayed EVERY day for the intercession of this great saint, who I have always had a great devotion to. I will never believe that it was a coincidence that my water broke just a few minutes after midnight on the 19th, and my very special girl was born just a few hours later! :)
So glad you enjoyed reading about this wonderful feast day filled with lots of history and traditions (and great food) :) I also enjoy looking at old photos and hearing the stories about them. I find them inspiring too! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
I recently discovered your great blog and have enjoyed visiting it. I'm so glad you have linked up to NOBH so I can read your posts! Thanks too for hosting the Lent link up. How special to have a son named Joseph. I would encourage you to set up an altar. What's so great about them is that they can be as simple or elaborate as you want. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!
What a beautiful story about your daughter's birth! Thank you for sharing it! Hope is a beautiful gift and how wonderful that she was born on such a special feast day that you have a great devotion to. I don't believe it was a coincidence either that God allowed Hope's birth to be on St. Joseph's feast day! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your inspiring comment!
I love looking at my father's old photos over and over again! Photos have so much history and great stories attached to them and it's inspiring to catch a glimpse of life in the past through the pictures. Thank you for stopping by to read how our corner of the world celebrates St. Joseph's feast day! Thank you also for leaving a comment.
We love making the chocolate crown as well in our home. I made it last year closer to Easter and then on Easter morning, I put small plastic eggs in the center to look like a bird's nest. So that way Lent is over and everyone can eat the sweet treat! I got the idea about the eggs from somewhere, but I don't remember where off the top of my head. Thanks for your visit and comment!
Thank you for visiting and commenting! I love seeing how others celebrate St. Joseph's feast day. There are so many wonderful ideas and beautiful altars. Like I mentioned on your blog post, I really like the homemade altar idea your kids made from boxes! Have a blessed day!
My father and his sister are especially grateful that a childhood tradition of theirs still continues today with our friend's hosting the St. Joseph altar and celebration each year. It's great to hear my father tell about all his memories of St. Joseph's feast day. Thank you for taking the time to read how we celebrate this special feast day and for commenting! Have a blessed day!
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read this post about this special celebration! This feast day has been a wonderful way each year to keep such amazing memories and stories alive. My father loves the fact that our homeschool group is continuing a tradition that he has such fond memories of when he was a child. Have a blessed day and I hope you are having a great week in school this week!
Hello, I have come over from the St. Joseph's altar blogfest. I absolutely love you old family photos! What a gift to have them. I also love your idea of incorporating special items from those that have passed before, especially the carpenter's square. So clever!
Oh Wow Tracy! This looks like an amazing day! I so wish I could have been there, The altar is just beautiful. I love all the Italian dishes so yummy. I have to say that the pictures of your father and the altar are just breathtaking. What amazing memories to have. Thank you so much for sharing your feast day with us. I love that you had so many people to share this day with.
Also, I fixed the issue with my blog button. Thanks for letting me know and thanks for grabbing it!
What a beautiful, and so authentically Italian, Altar! Everyone did a great job. I am so glad you joined in the St. Joseph Altar blog fest. I really enjoyed reading your history and seeing the old photos. That was very special. Thank you for sharing and Viva San Giuseppe!
Hi Mrs. W.!
I'm so glad you stopped in to read about our St. Joseph celebration. I just went to your blog post and left a comment there. Thank you for your kind comments about this special feast day that I am blessed to share with family and friends! Have a blessed day!
I'm so glad I found your St. Joseph blog fest through Lacy's blog at Catholic Icing! It has been so fun to visit other posts to see how they celebrate St. Joseph's feast day! Thank you for hosting the link up! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I had never heard or seen the expression "Viva San Guiseppe" until I went to your blog so thank you for teaching me something new about this special feast day! God bless!
Thank you for stopping by and commenting! I always enjoy looking at my father's old photos and hearing the stories behind them. It is a treasure to pass down to our children! I just visited your lovely blog and post on St. Joseph and left a comment! Have a blessed day and nice to "meet" you! :)
Very beautiful! I loved the pictures of your father's family St. Joseph Altar. It is fantastic that you are teaching this tradition to your children. The Mini Altar on the last picture of your gradnfather that is next to the angel is beautiful as well. I recieved my grandfather's miniature one many years back and it is an absolute treasure! Thanks for the beautiful testimony to St. Joseph! St. Joseph ~Ora Pro nobis
Thank you "Deus Est Verum" or "God is Truth" for stopping by and commenting! That is so wonderful you have such a special treasure from your grandfather! St. Joseph's Feast Day has been a wonderful tradition to celebrate with my parents each year and pass on this tradition to my children hopefully! God bless!
So inspiring! Thank you taking the time to share all of it. How wonderful to have this family tradition in your family. I would love to leave that type of legacy for my children. I'll have to see if our home school group would be interested in doing something like yours.
Hello! Ave Maria!
May I use one of your blog pictures in a post that I'm writing about the St. Joseph Altar? I have never heard about that tradition before, so I would like to show it to my readers and incentivate them to make one in their houses too.
Thank you so much!
Hi, Tracy! Ave Maria!
My post link is http://www.mulhercatolica.org/2012/03/altar-de-sao-jose.html
If you don't mind, the post is in portuguese, I'm from Brazil, but you can use the google translator, in the right side to help you. I hope people know about this tradiction here, in my country!
Thank you so much for the picture! I also used some informations from your post to write my post.
I'll try to do a St. Joseph Altar this weekend. Let's see if I will get it :)
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