March 19 in the Catholic Church is the feast of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ and the husband of Jesus’s mother Mary. In the Bible, Joseph never speaks, but he always immediately does what the messengers of God tell him to do. He has therefore been considered since the earliest days of Christianity as a model father, husband, and servant of God.
St. Joseph’s Day is important for Italians, particularly Sicilians, and when many immigrants came to America, the festivities in honor of St. Joseph were imported to the U.S. by the Italian immigrants. One old tradition that is said to originate in Sicily, and which continues to be practiced in America today, is the Tavola di San Giuseppe or St. Joseph’s Table.
In many U.S. parishes now, including my own, the table is mostly spread with bread and baked goods. Sometimes the bread is free for guests at the St. Joseph’s Day celebration, and sometimes the baked goods are sold and the proceeds are given to charity. One signature Italian food for the St. Joseph’s festivals is a round cream puff (sfinge) that is filled with ricotta cheese and covered with candied cherries or citrus. Almond cookies are another dessert traditionally found on the tables. Catholic Culture notes that the tables originally began as a way of thanking St. Joseph for ending a famine and for feeding the poor.
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