Thursday, 17 October 2013

Italians Celebrate Saint Joseph's Day on March 19

Italy - The Feast Day of Saint Joseph
Italians love celebrating. Two days after the feast of Saint Patrick, on March 19th, Italians all over the world celebrate Saint Joseph's Day. Saint Joseph is the father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. He is the Patron Saint of carpenters, house buyers and sellers, fathers, confectioners, wheelwrights, and working people. Numerous countries regard him as their patron saint too, including Austria, Canada, Mexico, Sicily, Turin, and Florence Italy.
According to legend, during the Middle Ages severe drought and famine plagued Sicily. Sicilians prayed passionately to Saint Joseph for rain. They promised that if he sent rain, they would prepare a large feast in his honour. While they waited, Sicilians survived on fava beans which saved them from starvation. Saint Joseph heard their prayers and sent rain. The Sicilians never forgot their promise to him for answering their desperate prayers. In gratitude, to this very day, they hold dear their promise and pay homage to him.
Every March 19th, Italians open their hearts and pantries. First, three-tiered altars are erected to honour the Holy Trinity. A statue of Saint Joseph, surrounded by flowers and candles, decorates the top tier. On the next two tiers are foods like pasta, olive oil, fava beans, and baked goods.
During the banquet, food is generously offered to the needy. In the town squares of many towns and villages, large banquet tables are erected. All the townsfolk contribute food, flowers, limes, candles, wine, and fava beans. No meats are placed on the altar because the feast day falls during the season of Lent. Foods made with bread crumbs are common because it is symbolic of a carpenter's sawdust. A special vegetarian minestrone soup including fava beans and bread carefully baked in the shape of a sceptre to represent his walking stick or a wreath representing the Crown of Thorns are lovingly prepared and offered. At the end of the meal, every guest takes nhome some of the food.
To begin the festival, the local priest blesses the altar and its foods. Children portraying the Holy Family must sample all the food on the altar. As each item is tasted, there is a drum roll and everyone shouts "Viva San Giuseppe" to cast away all of the evil spirits. When the tasting is complete, the blessed loaf of bread is cut into pieces and shared with all. Legend decrees that whoever eats a piece of the bread will receive good fortune throughout the next year.
Saint Joseph's Day is a day for eating and celebrating with friends and family. There are many recipes passed down through the generations for this very special occasion. One of the most common is for "zeppole", a fried donut-like treat. So on March 19th, I hope you take the time to make and enjoy zeppole. I wish all my Italian family, friends, and readers Buon Giorno di San Giuseppe - Happy St. Joseph's Day. "Viva San Giuseppe!"
Zeppole
For the dough:
2 cups sifted flour
2 cups water
10 ounces granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large eggs
¼ cup white wine
A pot of oil for frying
For the dredging:
3 teaspoons powdered cinnamon mixed with 1 cup sugar
Combine water, sugar, and 3 tablespoons of oil in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Mix flour into boiling water mixture all at once. Remove from Remove from heat and begin whisking or stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a mass. Return to low heat ad cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and add eggs 1 at a time. Beat vigorously after each addition or the egg will cook. Add wine and beat the dough until satiny. Grease a countertop or board with oil. Turn out the dough and pat down flat. Fold sides over on itself so there are 3 layers. Repeat this five more times. Heat oil in a large pot or fryer. Take about 1/3 of dough and roll out in a log, to the thickness of your thumb. Pinch off a teaspoon size piece. Place 3 or 4 at a time into boiling oil. Turn and fry until golden on both sides. Drain on brown paper. Place into a paper bag and sprinkle powdered sugar over them. Close the bag and shake to cover with sugar.

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