St. Patrick may get all the attention with the famous parades and green beer, but for some Italian Americans (including me) it means only two more days until St. Joseph's Day. Growing up in an Italian American family, St. Joseph's Day was always one of my favorite holidays: I could take the day off from school and all I had to do was visit relatives and eat! The tradition was brought over with the first immigrants and is still celebrated in both the old Italian American neighborhoods in the big cities and households nationwide. Every March 19, Italian Americans across the country will be sitting down to one of our favorite feasts.
Keeping The Tradition Alive
Over the generations, St. Joseph's Day has changed as our lives have gotten busier and more secular. Most households no longer have altars and the traditions of visiting other households have dwindled, mostly it seems due to our busy schedules. In my community, St. Joseph's Day has become more family oriented than community oriented like it was in the past. When Italian Americans were still living in concentrated communities the feast would be large gatherings of several families, but today it is more in line with an extra special dinner with close relatives. However it is good to hear that in Italian American communities across the country traditions are still alive including "Tupa Tupa", (knock knock) a reenactment of Joseph and Mary seeking shelter. The people portraying the Holy Family would be accepted and allowed to join the feast after knocking three times.
There is always hope that celebrating St. Joseph's Day will continue since even in cases where much has been lost, some traditions are continued to be passed on - such as making the special pasta. Some older traditions become rekindled by the younger generations, such as creating altars like their grandparents did. If there ever was a testament to the strength of devotion to St. Joseph it would be the City of New Orleans. Not even the devastation left by hurricane Katrina can stop their altar tradition or the famous St. Joseph's Day Parade.