Sunday, March 20, 2011

Saint Joseph Feast Day Celebration!

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:

Behind the Easter lily plant is the rest of the altar which had many types of food and breads.  Here are pictures from the backside of the altar.  The altar has the 3 levels to symbolize the Blessed Trinity.
In the background behind the breads that spell "ST. JOSEPH" there is a carpenter square that belonged to our friend's father who has passed on.  St. Joseph was a carpenter and a hard working man who provided so much for his holy family.  At the feet of the St. Joseph statue there is an old rolling pin that once belonged to my friend's aunt.  The aunt used the rolling pin to make food for the St. Joseph altars in Louisiana. 

A History of the Altar

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. 

The homeschool family that hosted today's St. Joseph celebration told a little bit of history of St. Joseph's Feast Day by displaying this map to show where Sicily is located.  Our friend's great grandparents (their wedding photo is in the above picture) were from Italy and when they moved to Louisiana they started the St. Joseph altar tradition in the state of Louisiana. The dish in front of the framed photo is a plate of fava beans and during the famine in Sicily, families lived off of these types of beans until the famine ended. 

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:
My Dad makes this dish each year, "pasta con Mudica”, which is a dish with pasta and breadcrumbs.  The breadcrumbs symbolize the sawdust in St. Joseph’s carpenter shop.  In the background a family made a vegetable lasagna.
In the background the colored cookies are fig cookies or cuccidatas.  These are very popular Italian cookies. These are a labor of love made by my friend's mother who is from Louisiana.  Thank you Mrs. J! As always the cuccidatas were so delicious and beautiful!  The cookies in the front of the photos are seed cookies.  These are also delicious!

Here are some non-traditional St. Joseph Fig Newton cookies that some of our upper elementary children carved to decorate the St. Joseph altar. :)  Someone carved a fish, chalice and a cross in the cookie.

This was a beautiful cross cake made with Italy's flag colors. This cake was made by a 4th grade boy in our group.  Great job A.S. !

I made these Cappuccino Bon Bons (I renamed them Cappuccino Cakes).  I got the recipe out of the Country Italian Cookbook.

A family made a beautiful crown of thorns out of pretzels and melted chocolate.  All the young children loved this sweet and symbolic treat!

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:
My father is the young boy on the left closest to the altar.  He is standing beside his fraternal twin brother.  Also, pictured are my father's parents and his sister.  The altar in this photo is much more elaborate than ours today, but oh so beautiful! Don't you think?

Here is a close-up of the St. Joseph Altar.  It is difficult to see here, but hanging around the altar are decorative breads.  On the altar there are various statues, including the Holy Infant Child and candles.

This is my now deceased grandfather (my father's father) placing an angel statue on the altar.  

This was a long post, but a very special one to write.  Thank you for reading about St. Joseph's Feast Day!  It was another wonderful celebration to honor St. Joseph and we are grateful for all the family and friends who came together to remember who God called to be the leader of the Holy Family!
 We had over 60 adults and children celebrate this blessed day!

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!!!!

Unknown said...

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... =)

Mom2Seven said...

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! :)

Unknown said...

This is a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing the old photos from your dad's family. What a beautiful tradition.

Patty said...

The old pictures are amazing!!! Glad you shared those. And I really liked the crown of thorns made out of the choc. covered pretzels. That would make a perfect lenten treat - (if you didn't give up sweets :)

Jackie C said...

Such a beautiful St. Joseph Feast Celebration! You inspire me to do more for next year!! ;)

thank you for commenting on my blog site. I truly appreciate the blessings.
God bless you!

Lena said...

lovely feast day celebration. i'm adding your cappuccino cakes on my easter menu.
pax Christi - lena
ps your cupcakes are yummy! :

Tiffany said...

Hi Tracy~ What an amazing celebration and tribute to St. Joseph. Yes, a special feast day indeed...Especially with your family connection. The old photos are priceless. Thank you for sharing your inspiration and joy! God Bless;-)

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this Tracy. Beautiful post! What a wonderful memory for you and your family. I voted for you.

Jen said...

Thank you for sharing such wonderful memories. The bread pieces are great - you guys did a wonderful job!

Hi Anna-Marie,
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!

Hi Monica,
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!

Hi Annita!
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!

Hi Jen,
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.

Hi Patty,
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!

Hi Jackie,
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!

Hi Lena at JOYfilled Family!
So glad you stopped by to read this post and thank you for your comment. The cappuccino cakes (bon bons) were a hit and the best part was that they were so easy to make and so yummy! I hope you get a chance to make them! God bless!

Hi Tiffany!
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!

Hi Lynda!
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!

Hi Tracy
Stopping by to vote you are only 2 away from passing me:) Have a wonderful Wednesday!!!

Hi Jen,
Thank you for your visit and comment! The children in our homeschool group love to make the bread for the altar each year. It adds so much to our celebration! Have a blessed day!

Hi Anna-Marie,
Your comment just came through while I was commenting here. Watch out, A Slice of Smith Life is coming after you! ;) Have a great Tuesday! (It's Tuesday today right, not Wednesday?) Are you rushing the week along? :)

Mrs. W said...

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!

Unknown said...

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!

Evann said...

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!

Hi Kimberly!
Thank you for visiting and commenting about our celebration! It was a beautiful day indeed and it's such a blessing to share with others in blog world about this special feast day in our awesome church! God bless!

Hi Evann,
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!

fadfd said...

This is a treat. I'm in awe at the pictures of your family celebrating the very feast we've come together in this blog world to share in. Such a gift to your children!

Thank you so much!

Hi Elizabeth!
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!

Zelda said...

Thant is an amazing tradition - and seeing it cross generational is just amazing. Thank you so much for sharing

Thank you Zelda for stopping in and commenting! Sharing a tradition that my friend's grandparents shared in and my grandparents and father celebrated makes this feast day even more wonderful and special!

How awesome to have old family pictures! Way to carry on the tradition!

I'm following you from Catholic Icing Lenten Link Up.

Thanks "Vallimasoos" for stopping by and commenting! Don't you just love Catholic Icing? :)

Laurie said...

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.

Hi Laurie,
Thank you for taking the time to read my post (it's a long one for sure!) I hope your homeschool is able to celebrate this feast day as well! God bless!

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!
In Christ,

Hi Melissa!

Sure, no problem, use whichever picture(s) you would like. Please give me a link to your post as I would love to read it and link back to it :) Happy St. Joseph Feast Day!

This comment has been removed by the author.

Hi, Tracy! Ave Maria!

My post link is

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 :)

In Christ,

Hi Melissa!
Thank you for sharing about the St. Joseph altars and feast day in your country! Your blog post is beautiful!

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