Christian: Wear red, remember Dad on St. Joseph’s Day

In many Catholic countries, St. Joseph’s Day is a type of Father’s Day, in honor of the father of JesusSATURDAY, MARCH 19: Pack up your St. Patrick’s Day green and wear something red on March 19—and you’ll be celebrating like Italians who lead the world in honoring St. Joseph. The father of Jesus plays such a prominent role in Christianity that he actually has two feast days; today is the Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary. (The other St. Joseph feast day honors Joseph the Worker. has more.)

The special appreciation of Joseph throughout Italy dates to a medieval famine in Sicily, when people invoked St. Joseph for help with their failing crops. Rains came and saved the population. Special celebrations have marked St. Joseph’s day ever since. Many congregations assemble special St. Joseph’s Day altars—in many churches featuring fava beans, a crop that helped to sustain the population during that long-ago famine. (Check out FishEaters for customs, recipes, songs and more.)

The Bible tells us little about St. Joseph. Still, the faithful conclude that the humble carpenter was gentle and righteous: Joseph was kind to Mary even before he knew about her child; he followed every divine instruction in moving his family; and he spent all of his energies protecting his family. (Wikipedia has details.)

Want to catch a glimpse of centuries-old St. Joseph’s Day traditions in the U.S.? New Orleans observes the holiday in style—or look for an Italian-American community in your part of the country. Many churches still feature St. Joseph altars for the feast day. You’ll also find St. Joseph’s parades and Sicilian-inspired pastries. (NewOrleansOnline has information.)

(Originally published at, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.)

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