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St. Joseph's Day

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!

Comments (9)

These look delicious.


Thank you for the lesson about St. Joseph's Day and the cakes. One year we were in Sicily on 3/19 (or should I say 19/3?) and from our balcony saw fireworks in a nearby village. I'm sure it was a great celebration!

Oh those look soooo delicious! I loved the double parked (in the middle of the street) photo! It was fun sharing this day of celebration virtually through your photos. Thanks for sharing.

Great post! You're lucky to live in a city with a Little Italy. Those cakes look fantastic!

The double parking thing is too funny!

Great post! You are really doing great advertising for Philadelphia; it sounds like such a fun place to live. And even more so when you have a Little Italy! The cakes look delicious...

One year I was in Sicily on March 19 and we visited the tiny island of Mozia. They had a tiny chapel all covered in decorations made of bread! Definitely my kind of chapel.


I really do love Philadelphia and I love living in the city. Of course like any large city, Philly has its' share of problems - not the least of which is parking! I'll have to post a photo of parking later in the day when people are truly parked in by "double parkers". Fortunately I live on a street where double parking is not possible!


Heh. The double-parking pre-emption is hysterical. Zeppoles are more a thing in Boston than St Joseph's cakes, although the cakes look like they'd be less of a stone in the stomach a few hours later!

YUM! These look like I'd love a dozen with a fresh pot of tea. (Little oink that I am!)


My Catholic high school is not at all Italian, so St. Joseph's day is not on the radar here. I know my local church does a table, but I really enjoyed reading about what you do in Philadelphia - the pastries, well, those look divine.

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