March 19; a thanks-giving day for Italians

Tomorrow is another holiday in the New Orleans area and in many other Italian-American areas- St. Joseph’s Day. St. Joseph is the patron saint of the island of Sicily and it’s said during the famines of the Middle Ages, residents prayed to St. Joseph to deliver them, and the altars are built in thanks on his feast day, March 19.In the late 19th century, New Orleans was a major port of immigration for Italians from Sicily. Many settled in the French Quarter, nicknamed “Little Palermo” at the time. Devout Catholics promise altars for answered prayers and favors granted, such as healing or safe delivery.The food on an altar is supposed to be donated, or “begged.” Countless people work on the altars: Altar societies, church members, Catholic and non-Catholic spend untold hours, starting at the beginning of the year. Many New Orleaniains try to make a “pilgrimage” to a number of altars on the feast day, to churches, store and even to private homes.

 

and for those of you looking, those who secretly steal a lemon from a St. Joseph’s Day altar will get a husband. For those not in the search, you can just ask for a fava bean: Legend has it that you will never be broke as long as you carry a fava bean.

St. Joseph's Day Altar

St. Joseph’s Day Altar

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