With the internet and social media still a-buzz with talk of “synthetic babies” and debate over what makes a “tradtional family” its perhaps timely that today is, for many countries including Italy, Father’s Day. Celebrating fathers, fatherhood and the influence of father-figures in our lives, today is an opportunity to honour our Dads and remind ourselves that they come in all shapes, sizes and yes, even sexualities!
In Italy, 19th March commemorates Saint Joseph, or as the Italians know him San Giuseppe, husband of Mary and adoptive father of Jesus.
The Catholic church, particularly in southern Italy, honours the saint with nine days of prayer and an age-old tradition called St Joseph’s table. The tradition apparently started in medieval Sicily after a severe drought and famine. Farmers prayed to St Joseph, patron saint of the family, to help them get through the drought and when their prayers were answered, gave thanks in the form of food laid out on a table or altar. Today the table is often cross shaped or runs the length of a wall and is laden down with offerings that are given out at the end of the celebration.
Food for this celebration seems to vary throughout Italy. Some regions such as Sicily use dishes with fava beans, now the symbol of health but once an animal feed, as the the beans were not affected by droughts. Others focus on fish dishes such as fried mackerel, pasta with sardines or anchovies, in keeping with it still being Lent in the Christian calendar. St Joseph is also the patron saint of pastry cooks so his table is often loaded with pastries. Many families cook zeppole di San Giuseppe, also known as cavazune or sfingi, that are fried doughnuts, dusted with icing sugar or cinnamon, drizzled with honey and filled with cream or ricotta and chocolate!!! Another variation, the pignolatta or struffoli, is a fried pastry ball covered in nuts, chocolate and honey. Mmmmmm!!
Father’s Day celebrations are a little more modern having been imported from America where it was first celebrated in 1907, shortly after the first Mother’s Day in 1906. Today Italian celebrations seem to be family affairs rather than public celebrations. Young children can be seen bringing little paintings and hand made cards dedicated to their Papà back from school in the afternoon. And older children may buy presents but other than that I’ve not spotted a single shop front or card for the festivities here in Venice.
And so it seems that both St Joseph’s Day and Father’s Day and are celebrated a little differently in every family with traditions varying across the country. But regardless of what food is served or whether it’s a community, church or family affair, the most important thing is to celebrate our fathers who play, or played, such an important role in bringing up the next generation. Do you celebrate Father’s Day and if you do, how? Leave me a comment below and share your traditions. And a very Happy Father’s Day to you all!
In Italy Father’s Day is celebrated on 19th March, Saint Joseph’s Day, commonly called the Feast of Saint Joseph (“Festa di San Giuseppe”). It is not a public holiday.
In the UK & USA Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June and is not a public holiday.