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      Celebrating “la festa del papà”

       
      By
      Mar. 17, 2016


      Par San Josepo leva al ciel la man
      ch ‘l te varda dal malan
      dal malan in casa e in tera
      nel signal de la primavera. 

      [When Saint Joseph comes, raise your hand to the sky
      he will protect you from illness
      in the house and in the fields
      because Spring is coming.] 

      San Giuseppe is celebrated in Italy on March 19. Joseph is the patron saint of carpenters and homeless people, but his day celebrates also the beginning of spring, traditionally marked on March 21. The arrival of the good weather is symbolized by the stick Joseph is usually represented with which bears a bloomed flower at the very top, sign that he was going to be Mary’s spouse. This is depicted, for example, in Raphael’s painting The Marriage of the Virgin.

      In the old days, Saint Joseph’s Day marked the beginning of the agricultural year. Tools and equipment were prepared to resume work in the fields, in the vegetable gardens, in the vineyards, in the orchards and olive groves. This was also the time, with the waning moon, to bottle the wine.

      As Saint Martin’s Day on November 11 marked the beginning of the gatherings in the barn [the filò, as it was more commonly known], Saint Joseph’s Day marked the end of these gatherings, which was celebrated with a small festicciola, or party. On this day it was also tradition that rich families would invite into their homes three poor, representing the Holy Family, to have a meal. This tradition is still alive in Sicily where it is customary to invite poor to share a meal. Indeed, Saint Joseph is also patron of the poor and the orphans. In the hills and mountains of the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia and in Emilia Romagna, propitiatory bonfires would be prepared and burned on this day. Il salto del falò, jumping over the fire, is still done in some parts of Southern Italy. In some instances families in the countryside would burn old furniture symbolic of the old year and all the bad and sad events that happened.

      There are many food traditions linked to Saint Joseph’s Day: in the north of Italy people make raviole, short crust pastries filled with custard or jam; in the center-south of Italy people prepare zeppole or bignè di San Giuseppe, a cream puff either deep fried or baked filled with custard and topped with a black cherry.

      Viva i papà!

      References:
      Coltro, Dino. Santi e contadini. Lunario della tradizione orale veneta. Verona: Cierre edizioni, 149-51.
      Zanolli, Renato. Lunario calendario rurale veneto-friulano. Vittorio Veneto: Dario De Bastiani Editore, 46.

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