Feast Day: March 19 / 19.
In Poland, it is customary to celebrate "Imienien" or Namesday,
the feast day of one's patron saint. To allow the many Josephs to celebrate
their namesday, the Church would grant a dispensation from the rigors
of Lent on March 19. Because St. Joseph's Day is a Lenten solemnity,
the tradition has been to serve meatless foods so that the meal becomes
a "festive fast." St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church, patron
of families, patron of workers, patron of social justice, patron of
the dying, patron of pastry makers, and patron of fathers, is a very
important and beloved saint.
Iconography of St. Joseph
Images of St. Joseph most often depict him with the child Jesus in
his arms, with the Holy Family, at a work table, with carpenter's tools,
or with a lily.
St. Joseph's Day in Chicago Polonia:
A Polish-American Hybrid
While Poles most certainly honor and revere St. Joseph, in American Polonia
these values have flourished in interesting and hybrid ways. Especially
in the earlier waves of immigration (1890s - 1930s), Polish and Italian
immigrants were faced with an American Catholic church hierarchy controlled
largely by Irish clergy, most often unsympathetic to the newcomers whom
they often regarded as inferior, primitive, overly demonstrative, and
superstitious. In the face of this disdain for Southern and Eastern
European Catholicism, Poles responded by forming their own Polish language
parishes (i.e. St. Stanislaus Kostka in Chicago) while Italians responded
by preserving their religious traditions in the form of "Feasts"
(Festa) run by patronage societies from their home villages and cities.
This tension found curious expression in Chicago, America's largest
Run by a largely Irish political and church elite, the city visibly
celebrated the Feast of St. Patrick on March 17. In Chicago, this included
a prominent parade and turning the Chicago River green. In multi-ethnic
parochial schools this found expression in "the wearing of the
green" visually marking those of Irish heritage. As is often the
case in diasporic immigrant culture, the importance of St. Joseph's
Day escalated and found new significance in a new context. In immigrant
Polish and Italian communities, this provided an alternative form of
cultural identification and expression of loyalty.
Just two short days later on March 19, Polish and Italian Americans
dressed in red, celebrating their patron and publicly showing their
ethnic identity. (Both national flags include this color as opposed
to the Irish green). Especially in those of school age, this created
a curious linking of the two ethnic groups, who identified against the
traditions of the Irish. (The author is indebted to Mrs. D'Matteo who
created a St. Joseph's Day table in her childhood parish for half a
century.) Thousands of parochial school children in Chicago donned red
as a sign of their pride and resistance.
Along with this new festive significance came a blending of ethnic traditions.
The ancient Sicilian custom of tavole di San Giuseppe [St.
Joseph's tables: an elaborate feast complete with home altar to St.
Joseph and emphasis on feeding the poor] was celebrated in Italian parishes
and homes, multi-ethnic parishes with Italians and Poles, and eventually
throughout the city of Chicago's Catholic community. In keeping with
the Italian tavole tradition, the meal is meatless because it is a feast
that takes place during Lent, a time of fasting and almsgiving.
The traditional Italian Giuseppe cake (zeppole) (often called s'fingi
on the East Coast) is found in Italian bakeries and restaurants throughout
Chicago on that day, but is consumed by many Poles as well! The St.
Joseph's table most often includes a statue of the saint with flowers,
holy cards of St. Joseph, a bowl for free-will donations to be given
to the needy, and sometimes a special St. Joseph's bread formed in the
shape of the staff of St. Joseph. The bread is blessed ceremoniously
before the feasting begins.
Having formed our identity in the cauldron of Chicago and Milwaukee's
parochial schools, our Polish-American family celebrates St. Joseph's
Day with a St. Joseph's Table in our home, which is decorated with red
and white for the saint and for Poland. Holy cards and St. Joseph candles
adorn the dining areas. Our American Polskosc (Polishness)
requires zeppole from Il Giardino Bakery on Harlem Avenue in Chicago
alongside the pierogi (Polish dumplings) and makowiec
(poppy seed cake). We continue to serve a meatless meal for the celebration
and each year our son selects a charitable cause for which he collects
donations during the feast.
* David's recipe for St. Joseph's pasta
(Perciatelli con la Sarde)
* Visit our Home Altar to St. Joseph
& say a Novena Prayer
* See Chicago Bakeries and Zeppole
Hymn to St. Joseph
The Poles have many hymns in honor of St. Joseph.
* Listen to / Sheet
music for: Duszo moja (Ku czci sw. Jozefa)
(My Soul [In Honor of St. Joseph])
* Listen to / Sheet
music for: O Jozefie Ukochany
* Listen to / Sheet
music for: Szczesliwy, Kto Sobie Patrona
Prayer for a Happy Death (to St.
O Glorious St. Joseph, behold I choose thee today for my special
patron in life and at the hour of my death. Preserve and increase
in me the spirit of prayer and fervor in the service of God. Remove
far from me every kind of sin; obtain for me that my death may not come
upon me unawares, but that I may have time to confess my sins sacramentally
and to bewail them with a most perfect understanding and a most sincere
and perfect contrition, in order that I may breathe forth my soul to
the hands of Jesus and Mary. Amen.
St. Joseph's Day Proverb
Swiety Jozef kiwnie broda, idzie zima nadol z woda.
St. Joseph shakes his beard, and see: Winter's
* Dla Dzieci / For Kids: St. Joseph
to Print & Color
The Litany of St. Joseph
Poles are very fond of prayer via Litany (Litanie). Litanies
are often chanted, a form of prayer made to be repeated: one phrase
coming over and over again so that the person(s) praying is(are) caught
up in the prayer itself. The Litany of the Saints is chanted on Easter
Vigil, the Litany of St. Joseph, especially on his Feast Day.
* Full bi-lingual (Eng/Pol) Text of the Litany
of Saint Joseph
The Prayer of Blessing for the St.
the good things that grace this table
remind us of your many good gifts.
Bless this food,
and may the prayers of St. Joseph
who provided bread for your Son and food for the
sustain us and all our brothers and sisters
on your journey toward your heavenly kingdom.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
External St. Joseph Links
Virtual St. Joseph's Altar
* The Italian
Feast of St. Joseph (with more links)
* Ann Maria Chupa's photos & article
on New Orleans St. Joseph's Altars
York Feast website (with pastry shop listings!)