Heritage Holidays Tradition

A Saintly Weekend

Everyone knows that March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. While here in America it is generally known as a day to drink heavily, in Ireland, it is a religious holiday that has been celebrated for over 1,000 years.

While the Irish claim St. Patrick as their own, the truth is he was actually Italian. His father, Calphurnius, was a Roman decurio (military officer) and his mother was Conchessa Succat. They were both Italians, but living in a British estate. This obviously muddies the water a bit, but he was definitely a paesan, if you ask me.

But that’s okay. They can have one day. We certainly have plenty of others to celebrate.

St. Patrick isn’t the only special day coming up. There are three days in a row deserving of celebration.

March 18th is the Feast day of the Gabriel the Archangel. Gabriel means “Strength of God” and many call upon the Archangel for divine strength for help and support. Gabriel told Mary she would conceive from The Holy Ghost and the baby will be the Son of God. We have many Gabriels in my family, including my cousin, his father, my “Uncle Chubby,” and the first immigrant of my family, Gabriele Ficetola.

A St. Joseph altar (Credit: The Italian American St Joseph Society)
A St. Joseph altar (Credit: The Italian American St Joseph Society)

March 19th is one of the most popular of all the feast days for Italians. It is St. Joseph’s Day. Many Southern Italians and Sicilians claim Saint Joseph as their own, as he is regarded by many as their patron saint. In many Italian-American communities, thanks are given to Saint Joseph (San Giuseppe in Italian). We all flock to the local Italian bakery to pick up St. Joseph zeppoles, a wonderful pastry from the Campania region, for all the “Josephs” and “Josephines” in our families.

Sicilian-American Catholics in New Orleans celebrate St. Joseph’s Day by constructing altars to honor him for providing relief during a famine in Sicily. The tradition began in the late 1800s when Sicilian immigrants settled in city. There are altars all over New Orleans and a parade takes place in the French Quarter.

So after St. Patrick’s Day is over, you still have reasons to celebrate the rest of the weekend!

Buona festa!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *