Likely very few people in the United States realize that but two days after St. Patrick’s Day, there is another Saint’s day that is celebrated by a number of people around the world ranging from the countries of Italy, Spain, Malta, The Philippines, and the United States. Tomorrow, March 19th is St. Joseph’s Day. Many people take the time to prepare special tables in honor of St. Joseph and fill them with carefully prepared food which is meant to give honor to him. Each country has their own versions of this honoring including New Orleans where they dress in red and have celebrations similar to those having taken place but two days earlier wearing green. Certainly people living in New Orleans must think those two close days of celebrating is a welcome respite from the normal somber Lenten observances.
In Spain, St. Joseph’s Day is a version of Father’s Day as we know it here in the States. Sicily considers it a very special day for giving thanks to St. Joseph for saving them from starvation during the Middle Ages. In Malta, there are processions taking place with participants carrying a large statue of St. Joseph. The Philippines celebrates it by dressing up an old man, a woman, and a small boy in costumes representing Joseph, Mary and Jesus and are fed the finest of foods while praying a Novena to St. Joseph.
There’s another interesting happening that will take place tomorrow. The swallows return from their winter rest in the south to Mission San Juan Capistrano on March 19th.It’s interesting how migrating birds know exactly when it’s time to return to their nesting sites. I’d often wondered where this business of burying a statue of my namesake got started until I did a little research and found it came into practice in New Orleans. Planting upside down a poor defenseless statue of our beloved St. Joseph sounds a little cruel doesn’t it? Since this has been happening for a number of years, I’ve had people tell me, “I buried you head first and I’m not digging you up until you sell my house.” I do try to be a little clever and say something like, “I hope you at least pull me up for a little fresh air once in a while.”
I didn’t realize until about ten years ago how much the naming of a baby boy Joseph has fallen so much out of favor. I rarely hear of any young men with the name Joseph and certainly had my eyes widened when I was ordering something at a take away with a young person asking me my name. I responded, “Joe”. To my amazement he actually asked me how to spell it. I couldn’t help myself by saying “Do you know how to spell Joseph?” He answered, “Why, yes of course.” I thought afterwards he likely didn’t because many spell it Joeseph. Oh well, at least I can consider my name a bit on the celebrating side tomorrow. I think I’m going to see if I have something red to wear in honor of my namesake. I know exactly the long ago tucked away red tie I’ll wear.
I still shudder at the thought of being buried head first without provisions and fresh air. I tried it once with a keepsake statue of St. Joseph that I’d had since a child. Well it worked, and I must mention he was more kindly buried feet first. But the strangest of things occurred when I went to get him; he was no where to be found and I almost cried.