Italy’s Devotion to St. Joseph: La Festa di San Giuseppe

I’m pretty prejudiced when it comes to devotion to St. Joseph, Husband of Mary. As I have mentioned in other articles about the beloved earthly father of Jesus, I entered the world on his feast day, March 19—La Festa di San Giuseppe. My grandfather wanted my mother to name me GIuseppina (Josephine) in his honor, but my non-Italian father would have none of it. While my parents settled on Christine for me, my mother snuck in “Joseph” as my younger brother’s middle name.

March 19 remains very sacred to Italians. While all Italians celebrate Fathers’ Day on the 19th in his honor, southern Italians are more apt to include St. Joseph in their celebrations.  Sicilians, in particular, honor him as their patron saint.

According to legends, during the Middle Ages, Sicily was suffering such a horrific drought that the people were eating fava beans to survive. The beans, which were food cattle feed, kept many from starvation. They prayed to St. Joseph for rain, and their prayers worked. The spring rains saved the crops from destruction and the Sicilians from famine. 

La Festa di San Giuseppe table spread

In appreciation, Sicilians prepared huge tables of food and invited everyone to eat as much as they wanted. What many have forgotten is that the people served food and hospitality to the poorest among them first. Why? It was a way to remember the gospel story of innkeepers turning away the Holy Family during the cold winter.

Bonfire… ©Jens Mahnke

One additional ritual associated with the feast commemorates St. Joseph‘s attempts to keep Mary and Jesus warm. Many towns would hold huge bonfires (Fuochi nella Notte) on March 19 to celebrate the end of winter. The people would pile up what remained from the previous year’s harvest and burn it. Once the fire burned down, people would collect some of the ashes to give them good luck for the following year.

Today, many towns still celebrate Fuochi nella Notte in honor of St. Joseph, although the date may vary from March 17-19.

Zeppole and St. Joseph's day card - La Festa di San Giuseppe
Buona Festa di San Giuseppe
Chris Cutler

Travel Editor

Christine Cutler is a writer, photographer, editor, guide, teacher, traveler, Ohio native, Florida resident, and world citizen. she lives in downtown St. Petersburg with her husband and crazy Welsh terrier, and she considers Italy, where she holds dual citizenship, her second home. in addition to being travel editor and writing for live in Italy magazine, she maintains her own websites ( and, guides small groups through Italy, and is a travel advisor for Adventures by Jamie ( a travel, non-fiction, and memoir writer; photographer; and editor whose work has appeared in various publications, she spends as much time as she can exploring—and living and breathing—Italy.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Build your authentic life in Italy! Live in Italy Magazine is an experiential lifestyle news site dedicated to anyone who has or will make Italy their home away from home. Read stories from expats and Italians. Named the Best Italy Magazine by Feedspot!

We feature in-depth articles and interviews covering:

  • Expat Life
  • Food & Wine
  • Travel
  • Lifestyle
  • Design, Art, & Culture
  • Real Estate, Hotels/Resorts & Long-Term Rentals

We are committed to creating great content. Please consider becoming a Sponsor by donating on Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Our Contributors:

Lisa Morales, Editor-in-Chief (Miami)
Christine Cutler, Travel Editor (St. Petersburg, FL)
Lorenzo Diamantini, Food and Wine Editor (Gubbio)
Adriana Suarez, Top 8 Editor (Miami)
Bel Woodhouse, Contributing Editor (Cozumel, Mexico)
Giulia Marchetti, Contributing Editor (Viterbo)
Angie Kordic, Visual Arts Contributing Editor (Stockholm, Sweden)
Feuza Reis, Breaking News Contributor (Miami)
Patrizia Vigolo, Contributing Wine Editor (Vicenza)
Natalia Bell. Food Contributor (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Emma Prentice (Ferrara/UK), Contributor
Justin Patulli (Ottawa, Canada), Contributing Editor
Annalucia Scotto Di Clemente (Rome), Contributing Editor
Sandra Diaz-Velasco (Miami), Interior Design & Architecture Contributor
Carrie Convilli (Venice), Veneto Events Correspondent

Al Esper Graphic Design: Digital Edition Art Director (Tennessee)
SQLHardhat: Aaron Morales, Website Design and SEO (Miami)
Visual Popcorn: John Craven, Video Editor (Miami)
Colls Fine Art Photography: Armando Colls, Contributing Photographer (Miami)
Sabrina Negro, Translator (Piemonte)
Giulia Ferro, Subtitler EN/IT (San Michele all’Adige)


Submit Your Press Release: lisa @

Guest Contributors:

Guest Contributor applicants should have a good understanding of WordPress. Email links to recent articles along with your social media handles to: lisa @