March 19. St. Joseph’s Day. Everyone knows that, right?
Wait, didn’t I just write those words? No, no – that was March 17. St. Patrick’s Day. Today is St. Joseph’s Day. As in St. Joseph, patron saint of Sicily.
Stacy, panicked in Paris (Is Stacy ever not panicked?): Heidi, can you go to a St. Joseph’s altar and get me a Lucky Bean? I can’t find mine!
Heidi, from Louisiana (Calm, as always): What’s a Lucky Bean?
Stacy: Heidi! You know! It’s one of those giant beans that you keep in your coin purse! You know! You get them at church on St. Joseph’s Day. You know! So that you always have money in your purse!
Heidi: Ok. Can I get one for myself if I’m not Catholic?
Phew! Does everyone have a Heidi Sue? If not, everyone should.
In the late 1800’s a wave of immigrants from Italy and Sicily brought the tradition of St. Joseph’s Day altars to New Orleans. In celebration, churches (and some individuals) host the altars, whereby the ladies of the parish prepare Italian dishes, bring them to the church (or home) where a great feast ensues.
My great-great-grandfather was one of those Sicilian immigrants, so St. Joseph’s Day was always a big deal in my mother’s family. My great-grandmother hosted an altar every year in her French Quarter home, and her altar is featured in the book Gumbo Ya-Ya.
Knowing me well, Heidi gave me the book St. Joseph Altars for my birthday, and it depicts many of the beautiful altars that can be found around New Orleans on March 19.
With no St. Joseph altars in my town, to celebrate this special day, I’ve decided to make my own altar tradition. I’m starting small – Roll-Out Cookies with an Italian twist: aniseed. You just can’t have St. Joseph’s Day cookies without anise. You just can’t!
I wish y’all a Happy, Healthy, Cookie-Filled St. Joseph’s Day!