By LISA KAPPS - Utica Observer Dispatch
Posted Mar. 19, 2010
If you were seeing red today, there may be a logical explanation.
Today, March 19, is St. Joseph’s Day and wearing red clothing is one of the traditions associated with the feast day.
“St. Joseph is the patron of families and of workers,” said Sons of Italy member Alfred Valentini, 59, of Schuyler. “And he also is quite important as a symbol of the good we should do for our fellow man.”
St. Joseph is also seen as a protector of the family.
“There’s a legend that St. Joseph had a staff to walk with,” Valentini said. “When they were searching for a husband for Mary, his staff grew lilies on the end of it. It was a sign that he was the perfect match for Mary. He was good of spirit and pure of heart.”
And though Valentini doesn’t know where the tradition started, statues of St. Joseph are purchased by people hoping to sell their homes.
“That’s a relatively new thing,” he said.
In Italy, Valentini said, the feast day is very important, celebrated with parades and processions.
Italians also honor their fathers on St. Joseph’s day – like the secular American Father’s Day.
It is also a special day – almost like a second birthday – for anyone named Joseph, Pino, Pepe or Josephina.
In addition to wearing red, traditions include the setting of a St. Joseph’s Day table – a tiered table heaped with food. The tables are offered to the less fortunate as a form of charity, Valentini said.
Special pastries – sfinge (a delicate fritter filled with a sweetened ricotta cream and chocolate chips) and zeppole (a round of flaky, fried dough filled with vanilla custard) – are also made to honor the feast day.
The pastries are available at Café CaNole, located at 2200 Bleeker St. Co-owner Dean Nole said that they also produce a special type of bread with sesame seeds and Easter bread, both of which are associated with St. Joseph’s Day.
Nole, who lived in Palermo, Italy, with his brother and café co-owner Jason, said the festival means a lot to them “because we were able to see it.” St. Joseph is the patron saint of Palermo.
“It’s a really, really nice festival,” Nole said.
St. Joseph's Day feast
The Nole brothers brought their enthusiasm for St. Joseph’s Day back to Utica with them, and began hosting a traditional St. Joseph’s Day feast. The feast is celebrating its 15th year.