Saint Joseph’s Day Celebrations and Traditions

Saint Joseph’s Day commemorates Joseph, the husband of Mary and the adoptive and earthly father of Jesus, as the head of the Holy Family. 

Many Catholics venerate saints as heroes of the faith. One saint was present from the time Jesus was born into this world. He is the patron of many things – fathers, carpenters, house sellers, among others. If you guessed, Saint Joseph, then you’re right! Catholics commemorate the life of Saint Joseph on Saint Joseph’s Day.

What is Saint Joseph’s Day?

Who is Saint Joseph?

Not much is known about Saint Joseph, even if others identify him as the husband of Mary and the earthly father of Jesus.

Saint Joseph is a biblical figure who first appears in Matthew (Matthew 1:19-24) and Luke (Luke 1:27). He descended from the lineage of King David. Scripture shows that Joseph was a faithful, just, and obedient man. Having been born around 90 BC in Bethlehem, Joseph married the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, according to the New Testament.

When Joseph learned that Mary was carrying Jesus, the son of God, in her womb, he broke off his engagement to her. Joseph had to do so discreetly because they might accuse Mary of committing the crime of adultery. At that time, the punishment for adultery was death through stoning. 

After praying about it for a while, the Lord’s angel appeared in Joseph’s dream. The angel told him to carry on with marrying Mary. This advice was because Mary’s conception was possible through the Holy Spirit.

An angel appeared before Joseph to caution him of King Herod of Judaea’s plan against Jesus. This appearance was after Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt. After some time, an angel appeared in his dream again. The angel told him that King Herod had died. 

At that point, Joseph knew that it was safe to return to Israel. But, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus decided to settle in Nazareth, Galilee. This incident was the last time the Bible made mention of Joseph by name.

With each vivid dream, the angel appeared to guide him. Joseph always heeded the guidance and acted as the Lord had commanded him. When Jesus was born, Mary alluded to Joseph as the father of Jesus. She honored his part in raising Jesus, nurturing, and protecting Him. As to his death, others believe that Joseph passed away before the start of Jesus’ public ministry.

When is Saint Joseph’s Day?

Saint Joseph’s Day is generally observed on March 19. Western Christians have celebrated this date to commemorate St. Joseph’s life as early as the 10th century. However, March 19 is not the only day we remember St. Joseph. The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker was instituted in 1955 by Pope Pius XII and is observed on May 1 each year. 

May 1 is also recognized as International Workers’ Day, which references Joseph’s role as the patron saint of the workforce. Another day to celebrate St. Joseph is on Sunday during the Octave of Christmas. The Octave of Christmas refers to a feast celebrated for eight (8) days. This begins on December 25 until January 1. During the Octave, everyone remembers St. Joseph as the family’s protector.

History of Saint Joseph’s Day

As far back as the 10th century, Joseph’s life was celebrated in Rome, making it an official event. Pope Pius V extended the celebration to the entire church in 1570. After that, Pope Pius IX recently declared St. Joseph as the Catholic Church’s patron and protector. 

The Egyptians were also one of the first to honor Joseph. Then, the Servites, a religious order of mendicant friars, also celebrated St. Joseph’s feast day. They also celebrated it on March 19, around the fourteenth 14th century. In 1870, Pope Pius IX named Joseph the universal patron saint of the church.

Why Celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day?

The Roman Catholic Church and people worldwide celebrate the Feast Day of St. Joseph. It is a recognition of how Joseph saw Jesus as his own. The welfare of the child Jesus and Mary was his only concern.

How is Saint Joseph’s Day Commemorated?

Saint Joseph’s Day traditions

There are a wide variety of spiritual practices observed by individuals and families during this time. This happens no matter how hectic our schedules are or how many other things we have going on. When it comes to celebrating St. Joseph’s Day, Christians of all liturgical traditions enjoy going to church. They also love dressing in red. People also carry around blessed dried fava beans. They also put together altars in St. Joseph’s honor.

Saint Joseph’s Day in different countries

The Feast Day of St. Joseph is observed in every country with a significant Roman Catholic population. Individuals engage in fasting and abstinence while preparing or distributing meals to those in need on Feast Day. These traditions occur in Poland, Malta, Italy, and Spain. Saint Joseph’s Feast Day is unique in that, and unlike other holidays, its practices have not changed significantly over time. Commemorating this day has spread worldwide.

United States

Saint Joseph’s Day is celebrated in various states across the United States. One of the places that hold elaborate preparations and celebrations during this day is New Orleans, Louisiana. Among the St. Joseph’s Day traditions observed by New Orleans are the preparation of the altar, a Saint Joseph’s Day Parade, and a grand celebration called Super Sunday.

Symbolic of the Holy Trinity, St. Joseph altars have a statue of St. Joseph at the top of each section. It is common for the devout to decorate their altars with candles, statues, ornaments, flowers, religious medals, and other religious paraphernalia. 

In honor of St. Joseph’s role in fighting poverty, the altars always include food offerings that anybody may partake in. During St. Joseph’s Day, the famous altars are in St. Joseph Cemetery No.1, the Beauregard-Keyes House, and Irene’s Restaurant.

The Saint Joseph’s Day Parade is an annual event anticipated by locals and tourists alike. This is where artistic and colorful floats and marching bands can be heard and seen. Super Sunday is when Mardi Gras Day intersects with Saint Joseph’s Day.

Other states have a more laid-back celebration of Saint Joseph’s Day. In Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, and Connecticut, Americans commemorate this day by wearing clothing in red color.

Malta

St. Joseph’s Day is celebrated in Malta on March 19 during Lent. Celebrations are held in Rabat, Malta’s capital, and Mdina, its largest city. Most restaurant chains, coffee shops, and nightclubs in Malta remain open during the Feast Day of St. Joseph. 

Churches around Malta also celebrate masses. One of the most important activities is the procession, where St. Joseph’s relics are carried around the city. During the main parade, locals move St. Joseph’s statute from the Church of Saint Mary of Jesus from the National Sanctuary of St. Joseph. St. Joseph’s Day celebrations end with fireworks in different locations in Malta.

Poland

St. Joseph’s Day is celebrated in Poland as “Imienien” or one’s Names Day, where the Feast Day of one’s patron saint is celebrated. Every single person named Joseph is allowed by the Church to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day on March 19. 

The Church exempts Joseph’s namesake from the obligations of Lent. Locals celebrate St. Joseph’s Day with fasting or vegetarian fare as a Lenten solemnity. Polish homes also play polka music, engage in dancing, and prepare Polish food for sharing.

England

The Church of England also celebrates St. Joseph’s Day through prayer and thanksgiving. Locals also conduct a festival to commemorate the life of St. Joseph.

Canada 

In 1964, the Recollect Franciscan missionaries chose St. Joseph as the patron saint of Canada. He was confirmed as Canada’s patron by Pope Urban VII in 1637. Celebrating St. Joseph’s Day as a holy day was an obligation until 1793. But the earliest modern-day celebration of St. Joseph’s Day in Canada was in Quebec. 

Just like in Quebec, celebrations nowadays begin with a novena. Various churches in Canada also accept pilgrims from across the world. In Montreal, locals gather around bonfires and share meals while waiting for fireworks.

Italy

The celebration of St. Joseph’s Day in Italy began in Sicily during Medieval times. During those times, Sicily experienced a legendary drought, which was eradicated through St. Joseph’s prayers. As a result, locals celebrate St. Joseph’s Day with a big Lenten celebration. 

In other parts of Italy, locals burn wood the day before the Feast Day of St. Joseph. On the day itself, there is food usually served to the entire community and an elaborate altar devoted solely to St. Joseph. 

The St. Joseph Altar is abundant with fruits, plants, sculptures, and flowers as symbols of good fortune. The altar also has cuccadati, or bread sculptures, which the locals make. These are usually prepared beforehand, and the dough is preserved just in time for St. Joseph’s Day. 

Locals also bake pastries filled with symbolisms of Jesus and St. Joseph. In other parts of Italy, there is one elaborate altar located in the city center or the main piazza. There is also a procession conducted to bring the statute of St. Joseph around the city. Locals also play music, light bonfires, and set fireworks. Locals also wear red to keep the tradition alive. The conclusion of St. Joseph’s Day involves a dinner feast with pasta, fish, fried vegetables, and donuts.

Spain

In Spain, there are two (2) holidays on March 19. On March 19 of each year, St. Joseph’s Day is considered a public holiday. March 19 is also Father’s Day or El Dia del Padre. Because he raised Jesus as his adoptive son, Joseph is revered as a beautiful example of what a great father should be in Spain. 

Spanish tradition usually involves the children preparing meals for their fathers. In other parts of Spain, there is a display of various symbolisms in homes and public areas. These symbolisms include carpentry tools. Churches also celebrate mass, and church members are encouraged to attend. In Valencia, there is a festival called the Falla Festival. At this festival, art galleries and museums are at the forefront of tourism.

Philippines

Most families still practice the tradition of hosting a celebration for the Holy Family in the Philippines. Festivities are most widespread, particularly in rice-growing regions like Central Luzon and the Visayas. There is roleplaying wherein an older man, a relatively young woman, and a male child from low-income families are chosen to act as St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the child Jesus. 

To be blessed by the Holy Family, Filipinos kiss the hand of the individuals acting as the Holy Family. At the end of the celebration, the families give these actors food, clothing, and other necessities. This activity is because part of the commemoration of St. Joseph’s life is recognizing how much he loved the poor. 

During St. Joseph’s Day, Filipinos look forward to giving back to the less fortunate and the downtrodden. Songs are performed by the older members of the family hosting the festivities. A temporary altar is created to commemorate St. Joseph, where prayers and novenas are offered.

In Summary

Saint Joseph was an honorable and selfless man. He took on the responsibility of looking after the Blessed Virgin Mary and the child Jesus. He listened to the call of God’s angels to protect and provide for them. Beneath what was believed to be his serious exterior, St. Joseph was a straightforward man. He was also a skilled carpenter. 

Despite his initial misgivings about married life and parenthood, he willingly sacrificed his love, time, and energy to build a family of three. He helped Mary raise and care for the child Jesus. In recognition of his life and sacrifices, 

March 19 of each year is celebrated as the Feast Day of St. Joseph. His feast day is celebrated in various parts of the world through masses, novenas, merriment, and reflection. In other countries, the feast day coincides with the celebration of Father’s Day as a recognition of his role as Jesus’ foster father.

Faith-Filled Content Delivered To Your Inbox

Receive uplifting scriptures, inspiring articles & helpful guides to encourage your faith.

Thank you for subscribing!

Something went wrong.

Alex Shute
EDITOR
Alex Shute, MBA
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow.


Faith-Filled Content Delivered To Your Inbox

Receive uplifting scriptures, inspiring articles & helpful guides to encourage your faith.

Thank you for subscribing!

Something went wrong.