According to Wikipedia
Italy - La Festa di San Giuseppe
In Sicily, where St. Joseph is regarded by many as their Patron Saint, and many Italian-American communities, thanks are given to St. Joseph ("San Giuseppe" in Italian) for preventing a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages. According to legend, there was a severe drought at the time, and the people prayed for their patron saint to bring them rain. They promised that if he answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast to honor him. The rain did come, and the people of Sicily prepared a large banquet for their patron saint. The fava bean was the crop which saved the population from starvation, and is a traditional part of St. Joseph's Day altars and traditions. Giving food to the needy is a St. Joseph's Day custom. In some communities it is traditional to wear red clothing and eat a Sicilian pastry known as a Zeppole on St. Joseph's Day.
St. Joseph's Day is celebrated on 3/19. In South Philadelphia many Italian Americans have Sicilian roots. According to my late aunt (actually one of my mother's two best friends), Doris Lombardi, it was essential to eat a St. Joseph's cake for good luck on March 19th. For years Aunt Doris made sure that we had St. Joseph's Cakes on 3/19. This was an easy tradition for me to continue since these are absolutely delicious, and since I am always on a diet, I could never justify eating a whole one of these on any other day. Certainly I would not risk bad luck by not eating a St. Joseph's cake on 3/19.
All South Philly Bakeries do a brisk business on St. Joseph's Day. St. Joseph's Cakes here are a bit different from traditional Zeppole. I battled the parking war and made my way to my favorite bakery, Potito's to purchase 4 cakes and ensure the luck of my family!
Here is a picture of the Double Parking phenomenon in So. Philly. People park far from the sidewalk so as not to be "double parked in" by others!
The first rush on the Bakery begins about 7:00 a.m. so that people could bring St. Joseph's Day Cakes to the office. The second rush of the day is at 5:30 p.m. so people could pick up their cakes on the way home from work. I left work a bit early on 3/19 to avoid the parking war and the lines inside the Bakery. When I arrived at 4:00 p.m. there were only 4 people ahead of me and they wew well stocked for the evening rush!
I brought home 4, Ricotta filled St. Joseph's cakes for us to enjoy that evening (while they look huge, they are actually the size of a Doughnut).
We look forward to March 19, 2010 when we can ,once again, eat a St. Joseph's Cake for good luck!