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SAN GIUSEPPE – FATHER'S DAY IN ITALY

Festa del Papà: from New York, auguri a tutti i papà italiani. Saint Joseph's Day, March 19, is Father's Day in Italy. Children make special cards for their fathers while mothers prepare (or buy) tasty zeppole and bigné, light pastry puffs filled with cream. St Joseph's Annual Bonfires are lit everywhere and they are a pagan reminder of ancient festivities to celebrate the end of winter. Giving food to the needy is also a very important St. Joseph's Day custom.

The Ancient Romans celebrated Liberalia on March 17, a festival meant to honor Liber Pater, an ancient god of fertility and wine (like Bacchus, the Roman version of the Greek god Dionysus). Liber Pater is also a vegetation god, responsible for protecting seed. Liber's priests were older women and the festival celebrated the maturation of young boys to manhood.

Benedictine Monks were the first ones to celebrate Father's Day as a Catholic Holiday in 1030, followed by the Servants of Mary in 1324 and the Franciscans in 1399. In Sicily, according to legend, there was a severe drought during the Middle Ages and the people prayed to St. Joseph to bring them rain. They promised that if he answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast in his honor. The rain came and the Sicilian kept their word. Since fava beans saved the population from starvation, they became a traditional part of St. Joseph's Day altars and traditions. Upon a classic St. Joseph's Day Altar, people place candles, flowers, fava beans, specially prepared cakes, breads and cookies, wine, as well as other meatless dishes since no meat is permitted during Lent. There are foods containing bread crumbs to represent saw dust since St. Joseph was a carpenter. In Salento, the south-eastern extremity of the Apulia Region, people arrange “St. Joseph Tables”, and at the tables take their sit, in odd numbers, relatives and friends impersonating the Holy Family and the 12 Apostles. The Table is prepared in the evening prior to the feast day and, when it is ready, strangers are welcomed to join, especially the underprivileged. 

SOURCE:
Wikipedia
http://www.vignacastrisi.it/en/senza-categoria/salento-saint-josephs-table.html

http://www.answers.com/topic/saint-joseph-s-day#ixzz2NkTBF8Zd