St. Joseph's Day Feast
Viva San Guiseppe
Every year, on March 19th in Italy, is celebrated the feast of St. Joseph. In particular, Sicilians revere him. In centuries past, when the agricultural environs of Sicilia experienced a drought or bad harvest, the people would pray to St. Joseph for help. The goodly saint often answered their prayers with rain or a more bountiful harvest.
The grateful farmers would then hold a feast on his name day, March 19th. In that the feast fell during the hallowed season of Lent, the meal was composed of meatless dishes, though by any standards the sumptuous repast was fit for royalty. All of the friends, family and towns folks were invited to share in the bounty of that which the Lord had provided. It is a wonderful and generous custom practiced by people who work hard and share what they have with friends and family. When some of these fine farmers emigrated to America, in the early twentieth century, they brought this wonderful custom with them.
While working at Buffalo’s City Hall, I was fortunate to meet and befriend many fine people who share this ethnic lineage and practice that wonderful custom. We shared many a “St. Joseph’s Day Table” with these good friends. These wonderful people took my wife and I into their hearts and their homes, sharing with us the warmth of their culture, the beauty of their language and the diversity and just plain fun of their heritage. We will always be grateful to them for their generosity of spirit and warmth of their friendship.
As a consequence, whenever we are in receipt of some special bounty or grateful for that which the Lord has given us, we have held a special dinner on March 19th in honor of St. Joseph, who is also my named patron. Or, failing that, we donate funds to feed a homeless shelter, like Friends of the Night People on that day, asking only that a small sign in honor of St. Joseph be posted near the food.
And throughout the community, on that special day in March, many homes will open their doors and their hearts with a “table of bounty” for famiglia, amici and anyone who wishes to celebrate the day and the good fortune of those providing the feast. And you will hear the happy chant of “Viva San Guiseppe” ringing through the neighborhoods in honor of both the saint and the wonderful intrepid forbearers who had brought the tradition to America.
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Joseph Xavier Martin