I really enjoy Saint Joseph's Day/San Giusepe for the unique food. I also really enjoy this holiday because of the involvement that it includes. Most holidays I spend at home or at a family member's house, but for this holiday I spend it at church...a Parish that's not even my own.
My mom comes from a large Sicilian family that is very close, even though everyone lives far apart. My relative drive and fly in for this holiday every year. Even my "Aunt" Kathy from California comes in for this holiday, just so that she can work at the church.
I did not really start to celebrate this holiday, until a few years ago when my Aunt Kathy invited me to help her. Now every year I go to the church early in the morning to begin baking, along with other older women from the Parish. We begin baking at 9am and stop around 3pm. All day long we make two different kids of bread. One kind has lemon shavings and the other kind has anise in it. Once the bread is mixed we shape the dough into long strips. After we connect the strips at the top and then bread the dough into shapes, such as a shepherd's cane. While the women make the bread, the men in the kitchen begin to make the sauce and pasta.
The next day the meal is served around 1pm. The meal is served in various courses, which each represent something else...By the end of the meal, your stomach is in SO much pain from eating.
- A plate of braided bread, raw vegetables, oranges, and boiled eggs is placed on the table first
- Lentil soup
- Pasta con sarde with mollica or pasta with red sauce and mollica (mollica is suppose to be like saw dust)
- Broiled fish with lemon
- Frittatas: Omletes with vegetables and/or fish
- Dessert: Cannolis, sfinge (deep fried donut with sugar and cinnamon), pizzelli, pingolata/strufoli (honey balls), and assorted cookies, such as ricotta cookies.
Every year these same foods are severed. I can't imagine one of these courses not being present...even though I am not a fan of the pasta con sarda or the frittatas. I do not like sardines or frittatas. My favorite of the meal is probably the bread because it's very buttery and sweet.
This year it is celebrated on March 19, which is very soon!
Comment from Martha:
I love this description! It reminds me of all the elaborately sculpted breads you can still see on different holidays in Italy, and in Little Italies in American cities (e.g., Hertel Ave in Buffalo and Boston's North End, which I used to visit when I was growing up in the Boston suburbs, and which always has a huge St. Joseph's Day parade). Anthony talked about the symbolism of the food at Chinese New Year's, and you and Silvana both mention the "sawdust" that honors St Joseph the Carpenter. Do the sardines and braided bread also symbolize something? The bread sounds a lot like challah, also sweet and braided.
Although we are not Italian, we always think of St Joseph each year because my sisters, who are twins, were born on his day--March 19, 2 days after St. Patrick. Viva la mollica!