March 19 is Saint Joseph’s Day! Devotees will celebrate the Feast of Saint Joseph by attending church services and perhaps enjoying a famous Italian zeppole from one of the North End pastry shops.

Saint Joseph Procession through the streets of the North End last July.

In both Catholic and Protestant traditions, Joseph is regarded as the patron saint of workers and is associated with various feast days. Pope Pius IX declared him to be both the patron and the protector of the Catholic Church, in addition to his patronages of the sick and of a happy death, due to the belief that he died in the presence of Jesus and Mary. In popular piety, Joseph is regarded as a model for fathers and has also become patron of various dioceses and places.

Saint Joseph is honored for saving Sicily from famine in the Middle Ages. According to legend, there was a severe drought at the time, and the people prayed for their patron saint to bring them rain. The rain did come, and the people of Sicily prepared a large banquet for St. Joseph. The fava bean was the crop that saved the population from starvation and is a traditional part of Saint Joseph’s Day altars and traditions.

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Many still prepare a traditional St. Joseph’s Table to recreate this feast with specialties such as sfinge, zeppole, breads and fava beans.

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