Thursday, March 19, 2009

Saint Joseph Pt 2

Below is an extract from a friend's magazine on how her family back in Italy celebrate St Joseph's feast day. I hope you enjoy reading it. I love hearing about other people's customs and traditions!

“The Saint most honored in March is Saint Joseph, well, he is in Southern Italy. Behind cobbled walls and shuttered windows, the celebrations and votive offerings the world knows nothing about take place.

 Every year, starting about a week before the feast, altars are erected in homes, and the church square. The official church alter is the most elaborate of them all. The men of the village construct open chapels of wood and metal scaffoldings that are covered with branches of myrtle and laurel and hang oranges and lemons. They set up the altar inside and cover it with a white cloth. A picture of The Holy Family or the familiar portrait of San Giuseppe cradling the Christ child in one arm and holding a lily in his other hand is hung over the altar.

 Meanwhile the mamma’s have been busy baking bread for the altars. This “pani di decorazione”, bread that is not meant to be eaten, is made of special dough that the women mould and cut into shapes based symbols traditionally associated with the Holy family.

 Making these breads is considered an offering to the saint. Working with nimble fingers, sharp knives and pointy scissors, the women create new breads every year. Some bread is very simple and some are truly baroque in style. The bread is glazed and baked until shiny.

 The larger breads are arranged on the altar with a large star or Centre. To one side symbols of Our Lady are placed, a branch of palm representing peace, and a halo. To the other side symbols of St Joseph, his staff sprouting a lily and his carpenter’s tools. Certain symbolic foods are placed on the altar as well: dates(which nourished Our Lady during the flight to Egypt and fava beans and sprouting corn(spring’s first growth.

 After Mass, and the altars are blessed and after everyone has looked at all the beautiful work displayed there is a huge banquet in the church square! The exact dishes vary from family to family, but pasta with olive oil, home-baked bread, rolled lamb, and luscious cakes are sure to be on the table. The unique sugared pasta will be eaten with the hands, symbolizing St Joseph’s work with his hands. With each dish there are shouts of “evviva San Giuseppe!”(Long live Saint Joseph). At the end of the meal each family is given a big piece of consecrated loaf to keep in the house until next San Giuseppe’s Day. It is to bless and symbolize fruitfulness throughout the coming year.” Extract from "Catholic Mothering and More" Volume 1 Issue 1 copywright Anna Hackett of Fountain Resources.

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