Yesterday, March 19th, was St. Joseph’s feast day. And every year, we forget to celebrate. Maybe it’s because it’s Lent? Maybe it’s because St. Patrick’s Day comes just two days before. Even though it’s not as important a feast as St. Joseph’s Day, it seems to overshadow it because St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal culturally for Americans (because so many of us are descended from Irish immigrants) while St. Joseph’s Day isn’t.
And our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are usually solid. I found a gluten-free Irish Soda Bread recipe I like and this year I tried making Corned Beef for the first time. We added collards from our garden instead of cabbage and it was delicious. I even picked up a Shamrock and some gluten-free chocolate and peppermint cupcakes at Trader Joe’s and the kids thought I had been swapped with the kind of fun mom who let’s you have bright-colored desserts. “Wait….we CAN buy those green cupcakes? Like we’re really buying them? I can put them in the cart?” Live it up, kids. Mean mom will be back soon.
Anyhow, we’ve got a favorite St. Patrick picture book to read and a St. Patrick’s Day groove. But, St. Joseph’s Day? Not so much. And the truth is, with all the ideas about liturgical celebrations floating around the internet, sometimes I get overwhelmed before I begin. Because whatever I’m going to pull off won’t be as pretty as so-and-so’s. Or because I don’t have the supplies for all ten crafty activities that what’s-her-name is doing with her kids. So I just give up.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. It can be simple. It can be relaxed. It can be YOUR celebration, not somebody else’s. Just picking one special thing to do isn’t just good enough, it’s great. So THIS YEAR, I decided we would start a tradition for St. Joseph, even if it wouldn’t be perfect.
I read about St. Joseph’s Day Altars when I was researching resources for my March Liturgical Living post. It’s a very popular tradition in Sicily and is also alive and well in New Orleans where my husband grew up. I threw out the idea to combine a St. Joseph’s Day Altar party with the weekly playdate of Catholic moms and they were all for it. So, since my house was 60% clean, I offered to host and the night before we discussed a few ideas about what each of us would bring.
Traditionally, flowers, candles, food (pastries, breads, and cakes in the shape of fish and also fava beans) and statues/religious images of St. Joseph are placed on the altar which is three-tiered to represent the Holy Trinity. So, we drew from those traditions and everyone who attended brought any flowers from their home, candles, images and statues of St. Joseph, and food. Since some of the kids are allergic to gluten and some are allergic to dairy, we kept it simple by putting fruit that everyone could eat on the altar. (The apples were sampled by one of the toddlers. Probably to make sure they were safe for St. Joseph?)
Because helping our children participate in the Christian Year and learn about our Faith is the real goal here, we tried to engage them as much as possible. My friend Kaitlin brought St. Joseph coloring pages and read the kids St. Joseph’s Story.
Then the kids lined up and each had a chance to place the fruit, candles, and icons on the altar. A pineapple, a shamrock from St. Patrick’s Day, rainbow carnations, a bowl of cherry tomatoes, oranges, strawberries…it wasn’t perfectly authentic with our mishmash of items, but it turned out beautiful!
So don’t be discouraged or overwhelmed. Don’t feel like you have to celebrate every saint’s day or celebrate just like someone else’s family. Just jump in and share your love for your faith, however that looks for you. That’s what your kids will remember. Not how well your crafty activity turned out or how perfectly decorated the cupcakes were. Being with you, learning about faith together. That’s what matters.
And in case you were wondering if our feasting ever flops….
This Sicilian Baked Fish recipe I made for St. Joseph’s Day dinner? Nope. Not making it into the next cookbook. Just. Not. Good. Remind that I don’t want to see the phrase “anchovy paste” in a recipe ever again.
(You can check out our actually edible recipes for the liturgical year in our book, Feast!)
Did anyone do something special for St. Joseph’s Day or have family traditions to share? Does anyone else get overwhelmed with all the things you COULD do to observe the Christian Year?