Saint Joseph feast in Sicily, between faith and tradition
Saint Joseph feast in Sicily, between faith and tradition

Among the most felt religious celebrations in Sicily is the feast of San Giuseppe, a mix of faith and tradition to which are added, as always, the goodness of Sicilian cuisine. The island's patisseries, in this period, are a riot of sweets with ricotta, but among all the San Giuseppe sfinci dominate which in Trapani is called sfincione, a mouth-watering goodness.

There are numerous Sicilian towns where the celebrations of March 19th, a few days before the arrival of spring, include bonfires, laid tables and colorful altars. For many it is only Father's Day, instead in Sicily it is much more, it is a special moment that involves entire communities and brings back centuries-old traditions.


SALEMI city of the loaves

In Salemi, one of the most beautiful medieval villages in Italy, the ancient tradition of the San Giuseppe dinners is still repeated today.

The Dinners of San Giuseppe (le Cene) represent a ritual with deep roots in religious sentiment, but they are also a strong sign of belonging to the community. Each family opens the doors of their home to proudly show their altar to passersby.

Dinners are born as an ex voto for a grace received. The person devoted to St. Joseph offers the dinner to three orphans, who represent the Holy Family. For the occasion, 101 different dishes are prepared and of course there will be an altar dedicated to the Saint.

The altars, different in size and materials, are always covered with precious fabrics, bay leaves and myrtle, decorated with the typical loaves of various shapes, as a sign of abundance, and with oranges, lemons and flowers, to perfume the air.

At the center of this structure with Renaissance lines, a painting depicting the Holy Family is hung, while on a surface covered with white embroidered linens, in addition to the inevitable Loaves, there are symbolic objects: carafes of wine, vases of flowers and fruit, candles and candlesticks , vases with goldfish.

There are hundreds of loaves hanging from the altar and reveal the manual skills of women who learn to prepare them from an early age. An ability of they are very proud.

Today Salemi is called Città dei Pani because of the particular attention and skill with which these true masterpieces are prepared.

Walking through the streets of the village, in a sort of pilgrimage, you will be struck by the Arab-medieval atmosphere of its alleys, interrupted here and there by small thanksgiving altars and fruit baskets, while laurel branches placed at the corners of the houses they will indicate the altars to visit.

It will not be difficult to find ladies who will show you how small loaves in the shape of flowers, fruit, animals and sacred objects are made.

The week of celebrations culminates on March 19, when the rite of the invitation of the Saints takes place in the church of San Giuseppe. In front of a moving audience of faithful, the Parts of Saint Joseph are recited, a mixture of prayers and chant in dialect recited by some elders in front of the altar.

A ceremony where ritual gestures, prayers and songs are combined with a more complex symbolism that oscillates between faith and tradition.

Around the country there will be food and wine stands with tastings of some typical dishes prepared for the occasion: omelettes, fennel meatballs, pasta with sardines and much more. And then music and workshops.

Among the most important events in western Sicily we remember those of Gibellina, that of Calatafimi-Segesta, that of Dattilo and that of the island of Marettimo which always ends with huge night bonfires.


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