One of the oldest popular traditions in Sicily is St. Joseph’s Day, whose celebrations take place on March 19th. Sacred and profane mix together during this day, because it’s surely a moment of deep devotion and homage to St. Joseph, but it’s also a folkloristic feast rich in traditions and joyful moments.
Several Sicilian town organize their own moving procession with prayers and songs through the ancient streets of the city centre such as the one in Salami, a small town in the province of Trapani, in Santa Croce Camerina, in the province of Ragusa, or Gangi, near Palermo, in Ribera, in the province of Agrigento. St. Joseph is also the patron saint of Bagheria, and so on.
On St. Joseph’s day there are not only religious celebrations but particular rituals, for example, the decorated altars inside the houses, called “Cena di San Giuseppe” or the decorated bread that symbolizes fruit, flowers, animals and significant religious symbols.
The houses are transformed into real artistic workshops around the feast of St Joseph, where the creativity of many women gives life to perfect embroidered loaves.
It’s the task of men in this period to prepare the altars as a sign of devotion, decorated with bay leaves, myrtle, oranges, lemons and molded loaves. In the center will be the “cucciddatu” a sun-shaped bread that symbolizes divine light.
Out of devotion, the faithful offer the saint a long table set, the so-called “cena” with characteristic dishes and St. Joseph’s bread of different symbolic forms. After the religious procession in which the representatives of the Holy Family and the faithful leave the Mother Church they return home, where dinner is set up.
Tradition has it that St. Joseph must knock three times and only after answering a series of questions will he enter the family home to take part in the banquet.These celebrations continue for several days and include a procession of the simulacrum of St. Joseph through the streets of the center.