Festa di San Giuseppe

Italian Father’s Day

Father’s Day in Italy, and other Catholic Countries is celebrated on Saint Joseph’s Day on 19th March.

Saint Joseph, the third member of the Holy Family, is often overlooked, possibly because of absence in the adult life and mission of his wife Mary’s son Jesus Christ. The Bible describes his presence in the life of Jesus as a child but he becomes a peripheral figure in his later life. The last time Saint Joseph appears in the New Testament is at the feast of the Passover in the temple when Jesus is 12 years old, and after that he disappears, he is neither present at the Wedding in Canna or the Passion at the end.

Saint Joseph’s limited presence in the New Testament, however doesn’t mean he is totally forgotten by Christians. In Catholic Countries, on the 19th March, his feast day, is also known as Father’s Day. The carpenter, noble spirited, putative father of Jesus has become a figurehead for fatherhood and celebrated as such.

In Italy the feast of Saint Joseph is celebrated with a variety of folkloristic traditions that merge the Holy figure of the father of Jesus with that of pre Christian traditions. Foe example, in Sicily and Salento the practice is to set the ‘Tavole di San Giuseppe’, or the ‘Table of Saint Joseph’. On the evening of the 18th of March, it is usual to set a table with pasta, vegetables, fresh fish, eggs, pastries, fruit and wine and to invite the poor into your home to eat. Homeless people are made welcome at the table, while three poor children are there to represent the Holy Family.

Food of course plays an important part in the feast all over the country, with the “Zeppole” of Saint Jospeh being the most famous indulgence to celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph, Father’s Day. Hailing from Campania, their invention is linked to a recipe that dates back to 1837 in the Neapolitan cooking book by Ippolito Cavalcanti. Circularly shaped, they are made with flour, sugar, eggs, butter, olive oil, custard, confectioner sugar and sour black cherry to decorate. They can be fried or baked. As for many Italian recipes, each Region has its version: if in Salento, Apulia, zeppole are traditionally fried in lard, and made with water, lard, salt, flour, grated lemons and eggs. In Sicily they are fried, made with flour, rice, orange honey and confectioners sugar. In Reggio Calabria ricotta cheese and cinnamon is added, too and they are shaped differently.

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