St. Joseph's Table
Sicily has many religious festivals, many dating back to ancient times. March 19th is celebrated throughout Italy as a day of honoring and giving thanks to Saint Joseph the patron saint of workers and artisans. As the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is befitting that Father's Day is also held on this day throughout Italy.
The traditional story tells that a it was during a severe drought, in the Middle Ages, when crops were failing and families were starving, people prayed to St. Joseph to help them by sending rain. They promised a feast in his name if he could answer their prayers. The rain came, crops were planted and the people kept their word and now every year prepare a table (tavola) of thanks to St. Joseph.
Although the prayers may no longer be asking for rain, people use this celebration to ask not for material things but for the well-being or safe return of a loved one. During this time, prayers are kept private and personal.
Traditionally, the tables have a three stepped display, representing the Holy Trinity. There are both public and private St. Joseph's tables and much of the food is donated or asked for, this is called the "questua". Although each table will be different they will display an effigy of Joseph holding Jesus.
The St. Joseph's table is adorned with flowers and fruit as well as traditional peasant style foods including braided bread and fava beans. The observance occurs during Lent, therefore the dishes are made without meat. Breadcrumbs are sometimes added to dishes, to represent sawdust which commemorates Joseph's work as a carpenter. For dessert zeppole, cannoli and fig cookies are presented.
The immigrants from Poggioreale, like many Sicilians, brought their special ways of creating their St. Joseph Tables. We will continue publishing stories and photos of several versions of these tables as they are celebrated in several areas such as Bryan, TX, New Orleans, Chicago, and other places in America wherever Poggiorealesi are found.
TEXAS TAVOLA (2007)
Filmed in Bryan, TX
Depicted above is Vancie Todaro of Bryan, TX whose St. Joseph Table is featured in the full video.
In order to view the full, 34-minute video,
entitled "Texas Tavola (2007)"
please click on the following URL Link:
This heartfelt documentary by Circe Sturm
examines the Tavola di San Giuseppe, an important religious event at which a single Sicilian-American family honors the Sicilian tradition of holding St. Joseph Tables. The Todaros of Bryan, TX who are descended from Poggioreale, Sicily, hosted almost 1,000 guests in honor of St. Joseph.
Both anthropologically and visually, the event is remarkable to witness, with hundreds of hand-made breads and cakes, elaborate religious rituals, and beautiful prayers spoken in Sicilian dialect with a Texas accent. Our film traces their tradition to three small villages in Western Sicily—Poggioreale, Salaparuta, and Corelone. With rare historic photos and traditional Sicilian music complementing the video footage, it explores the tavola’s deep importance to Sicilian-American communities in East Texas. These communities have often been overlooked as part of the Italian-American experience, but their vibrancy and a sense of Italianità remain strong even after three generations in the Lone Star state.