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Barbara Rolek

March 19 Is St. Joseph's Day

By March 19, 2009

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St. Patrick gets the parades and the mugs of beer, but, in my book, St. Joseph makes out like a bandit -- he gets the feasts!

Cheese Pierogi
Cheese Pierogi
2009 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.
In Poland, it is customary to celebrate imienen or namesday with a groaning board of delicacies. Years ago, for the many Josephs whose namesday happens to fall on March 19, smack dab in the middle of Lent, the church granted a special dispensation from the rigors of the fast and allowed them to partake in a meatless feast. Today, pretty much anything goes on Dzien Swietego Jozefa.

Polish Poppyseed Roll or Makowiec
Polish Poppyseed Roll or Makowiec
2009 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.
In the United States, St. Joseph's Day took on special significance. From the 1890s-1930s, the waves of Polish and Italian immigrants were faced with a largely Irish Roman Catholic clergy that was unsympathetic to a group of peoples they considered inferior, primitive and overly superstitious. So Poles and Italians created their own Polish and Italian churches, importing priests from the old country and creating schools that preserved the language and traditions.

Not to be outdone by the huge celebrations of St. Patrick's Day on March 17, St. Joesph's Day, just two days later on March 19, became a chance for Poles and Italians to express their ethnic pride with the "wearing of the red," a color that appears in both countries' flags, and huge feasts known as St. Joseph's Tables.

For Poles, many parishes hold these banquets in the church hall with tables decorated in red and white, a statue or holy cards of St. Joseph, flowers and a donation bowl for the needy. Sometimes there is a bread baked in the shape of St. Joseph's staff over which a blessing is made and the feasting on pierogi, makowiec and more begins. Read Kyle Phillips' descriptions of St. Joseph's Day in Italy.

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