Festa del Papà

Did you know? Today in Italy is Father’s Day. While Americans celebrate it the third Sunday of June, Italians honor their dads on March 19 to commemorate San Giuseppe, or Saint Joseph, father of Jesus Christ and therefore a fatherly symbol of love, compassion, kindness, generosity, and acceptance. By tradition in some places, people light bonfires to celebrate this day, and annual donkey races are held in some parts of Italy! On this day, children give presents, cards, or flowers to their dads as a sign of reverence and honor.


The feast of St. Joseph was included in the Roman calendar by Pope Sixtus IV around 1479, and in the 19th century the saint became the patron saint of several countries with an important Catholic tradition. Then, in 1870, Pope Pius X raised St. Joseph to the rank of patron saint of the universal church. Leo XIII named him the patron saint of fathers of families and workers in 1889. To commemorate this event, children got into the habit of making small gifts or offering flowers to their fathers.

Typical sweets are the “Zeppole di San Giuseppe” or St. Joseph’s Day cream puffs. They are more common in southern Italy but can also be found in some local pasticcerie (pastry shops). Zeppola is a typical fritter filled with pastry cream. “The “San Giuseppe” zeppole are very popular in the Vesuvian area and were once prepared directly in the streets. So that, in the oldest Neapolitan tradition, the “zeppolari” were typically street vendors’ “street food” one might say. Although the first written recipe for zeppole dates back to 1837 when the famous gastronomer Ippoloto Cavalcanti, wrote it in Neapolitan slang in a recipe book. The question of its origin and its traditional use on March 19 remains. However, there is a Christian legend that has always linked the zeppola to the feast of Saint Joseph, the father of Jesus who tells of the flight to Egypt of Joseph, Mary and the little Jesus to escape the massacre of the innocents ordered by Harod. On the basis of this reconstruction, Joseph had to sell “zeppola” on the street to support his family. According to the Pagan tradition, however, the custom of preparing and consuming zeppole in the period of March derives from the Roman celebrations of Liberalia. Parties organized on March 17 in honor of Bacchus and Silenus, the deities who dispensed wine and wheat during which it was customary to accompany copious drinks of wine with some kind of sweet pancakes fried in lard.” [“Da Capri Al Vesuvio” by Ester Grosso]


Lindsay View All →

Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!

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