Revered by many as the patron saint of Sicily, San Giuseppe, or Saint Joseph, is celebrated throughout Italy on March 19th with elaborate feasts. Husband to the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ’s legal father, many Italians also use the holiday to celebrate Father’s Day. According to legend, San Giuseppe answered the desperate prayers of Sicilians as they begged for relief from a legendary drought that plagued the island during the Middle Ages. Rains saved the island from famine as fava bean crops flourished, providing Sicilians with the sustenance they desperately required.
Today, Saint Joseph's answer to Sicilian prayers is commemorated with triple-tiered altars and tables adorned with scrumptious dishes. Within private homes and public churches, offerings of flowers, limes, candles, fava beans, wines, breads, sweets, and platters of food are presented in thanks. Similarly, as feasts are prepared and tables become laden with delicious fare, many people also sell cakes and sweets to donate the proceeds to those in need.
Falling in the middle of Lent, meat is rarely included in feast preparations. Instead, fava beans are the shining staple. Made primarily from the life-saving crop, Maccu di San Giuseppe is famously prepared to commemorate Sicily’s patron saint. The thick fava bean soup is flavored with fennel, olive oil, salt and pepper and is often used as a way to clear out the pantry in preparation for the fresh harvests to come. In homage to the biblical carpenter, many Italians also make St Joseph’s Day Pasta, otherwise known as Carpenter’s Pasta, which is simply made with butter and breadcrumbs to symbolize saw dust.
While we could talk about the spread of savory flavors for hours, no Italian feast is complete without a series of beautiful cakes, pastries and sweets. Symbolizing abundance, figs are prominently featured in various cookies and pastries throughout the holiday. However, the most famous sweet treat offered in Italy is zeppola. Fried, showered with powdered sugar, filled with heavenly custard or ricotta cream, and topped with a bright candied cherry, the beloved pastry is a favorite St Joseph’s day treat throughout the country.
Whether or not you celebrate the Sicilian patron saint on March 19th, we highly recommend that you try some of the delicious fare prepared to commemorate the day. Looking to have your own feast? Try out our St. Joseph’s Day Collection, with everything you need to make your own Mafaldine di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Day Pasta).