Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Friday 22 January |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Laura Vicuña
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

What is a Saint Joseph's Table?

KUCHERAV/SHUTTERSTOCK

Philip Kosloski - published on 03/19/17

An abundant feast marks a year's worth of blessings -- but features only meatless dishes

Saint Joseph, even though he doesn’t speak a word in Sacred Scripture, has been deeply loved by Christians since the very beginning of the Church. It did not take long for Saint Joseph, on account of his role as the protector of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus, to become known as the principal patron of the Universal Church and by extension a quiet protector of all Christ’s faithful.

Read more: Did you know the Church has approved some apparitions of St. Joseph?

Since the 15th century his feast day has been celebrated on March 19, a day that typically falls right in the middle of Lent, but that hasn’t stopped the laity from orchestrating a great feast in his honor.

In particular, Italians have had a special love of Saint Joseph, and a famous miracle led the people of Sicily to begin a tradition known as the Tavola di San Giuseppe (Table of Saint Joseph).

According to legend, when a great famine struck the land of Sicily the villagers immediately prayed to their beloved Saint Joseph for protection and relief. They prayed fervently and pledged that if the rain returned they would hold a special feast to honor God and Saint Joseph. Miraculously the rain started to fall and when the fall harvest came, the people of Sicily prepared a wonderful feast in thanksgiving.

The great feast in honor of Saint Joseph then became an annual tradition and was typically celebrated on March 19. Typically the feast would be held in thanksgiving for a particular intention, remembering how God had blessed a family or city during the past year.

Read more: The Powerful 30 Day Prayer to St. Joseph

Wealthy families would often invite the poor, homeless and sick to take part in the festivities and excess food would be distributed to those in need. Traditions vary by region and city, but generally all activities for the feast center on a table that is covered in different types of food that hold symbolic value.

The table is usually organized to include steps that lead up to a statue of Saint Joseph, symbolizing the ascent to Heaven.

Vigil lights, incense and various plants create an ambiance of heavenly blessing. Since traditionally Catholics were asked to abstain from meat for the entirety of Lent, the foods used to adorn the table are all meatless. Everything is symbolic, reminding the people of different aspects of the faith.

Read more: Here’s why Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent

These feasts were often kept within the family home, but different cities would also hold public celebrations for everyone to take part.

In addition to the food, young family members would be selected to play the roles of the Holy Family, angels and twelve apostles. The actors would then participate in a dialogue that brought to mind the search for a place to stay during the Flight to Egypt.

To a soft knock on the door: “No, there is no shelter here.” Again the knock: “No, there is no shelter here.” The third knock was answered: “Who is it?” The reply: “I am St. Joseph. I seek shelter for Mary and Jesus.” They would enter the house to cries of “Viva Jesu, Maria e Giuseppe.”

Over the years other countries and nationalities have adopted the custom to their region, making the Saint Joseph’s Table a universal tradition. In the end, it is a beautiful activity to honor Saint Joseph and in thanksgiving for the many blessings God has bestowed upon us.

Tags:
Lent
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
2
DAD, HOW DO I?
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the dad who's teaching basic skills on YouTube for kids with...
3
MARTIN LUTHER KING
Jorge Graña
Did you know Martin Luther King appreciated the Rosary?
4
Philip Kosloski
What are the corporal works of mercy?
5
couple
Anna Gębalska-Berekets
Couple praises Padre Pio's recipe for a happy marriage
6
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
Reasons Catholics should read the Bible
7
EMOTIONAL
Bret Thoman, OFS
Need healing? An exorcist recommends this 12-word prayer
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.