New Orleans History of "Viva la tavola di San Giuse!"
St. Joseph is the protector of the family. It is said he delivered the Sicilians from famine. He is honored for this reason. Many people also pray to him and vow they will make an altar in return for help with a problem.
The first recorded church dedicated to St. Joseph was in 1129 but it was several hundred years later when he became better recognized and the date for St. Joseph's Day was set as March 19th.
Fava beans play an integral part of the celebration as this was the food that saved the Sicilians from starvation. The bean is said to bring good luck
Traditional Foods and Alter
Cookies and other meatless dishes such as stuffed artichokes, miriltons, pasta, fish, breads, pastries, cakes and other delicacies are prepared. The prepared food is displayed on special altars called St. Joseph's Altars. They are placed at homes, businesses and churches. Each altar is blessed by a priest and is presided over by a statue of St. Joseph. Some altars also have statues of Mary and Jesus as well. Notices are posted in newspapers and in other media inviting the public to view and partake of the food. All altars are not elaborate. Some, especially businesses, offer only cookies, bread, and maybe a lucky fava bean and it is believed that if the St. Joseph's day bread is kept in the home, the family will never starve. Some altars only give away small bags of food or give people samples of each dish while others allow the visitors to eat a meal with them. Some invite special groups such as orphans, the elderly or the homeless to eat with them. It is the custom for those who can afford it to make a donation. At the end of St. Joseph's day, the food and money is donated to the poor.
Events before St. Joseph's Day
On the Saturday nearest March 19th, members of Italian Marching Clubs parade through the French Quarter throwing fava beans and doubloons and trading red, white and green carnations for kisses.
Yes, St. Joseph's Days are a grand excuse for a party, but as with most things there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. I'm mostly German myself, but I remember as a child going around to different Italian homes and looking at the displays of the feast. As I was leaving, I would stick a "Lucky Bean" in my pocket. I would carry it around for the whole year, to give me luck. I've learned a good bit by writing this article. Hopefully, after reading it, you'll come away with a deeper appreciation of these special days. I know I have.
Back to the Keese Family "Saint Joeseph's Day Home Page!"
Saint Joseph's Altar, at Tulane Avenue. (Saint Joeseph Church)
Saint Joseph's Altar, Irish Channel. (Saint Alphonsus Church)
Saint Joseph's Altar, New Orleans Lakefront. (St. Frances Cabrini Church)
Evann Duplantier, has placed on the Web:
"Make a virtual offering, at a Virtual St. Joseph Altar!"
St. Joseph's Day Altars "Viva la tavola di San Giuse!"
La Festa di San Giuseppe "NYC-Style!"