Talk of the Town - March 2020
Although as of this March 12 publication, Our Lady of the Gulf and 100 Men Hall have cancelled their St. Joseph's Day altars, while St. Clare's is open for viewing on March 19 from 9am - 5pm.
- story by Lisa Monti
For years, the traditional building of edible altars to St. Joseph have taken place on March 19 at Our Lady of the Gulf and at St. Clare Catholic Church in Waveland.
The Our Lady of the Gulf tradition started with the Angels Ministry, whose motto is “Doing good deeds with great love to help others.”
St. Clare in Waveland has also built the traditional altars over the years. This year, plans for the first altar for 100 Men Hall has been in the works since the first of the year.
The tradition of creating altars filled with food and symbols originated in Sicily, where residents gave thanks to St. Joseph for saving them from famine in the Middle Ages. The practice made its way to New Orleans in the late 1800s with the influx of Sicilian immigrants to the area.
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Fava beans, symbols of sustenance, are blessed by parish priests on altars and carried by believers in a pocket or purse for good luck. Because St. Joseph’s feast day falls during Lent, there is no meat on the altars, only seafood and vegetables, but everything is in abundance to share.
Our Lady of the Gulf in Bay St. Louis
The presiding priest then blessed the altar, laden with thousands of cookies and other sweets and casseroles prepared by parishioners. Everything is always handmade, again following tradition.
St. Clare's in Waveland
100 Men Hall
The Hall hosted a cuccidota baking workshop in February, and some members of the local Italian Society joined in. The fig cakes will be baked and put on the altar. The altar will have lemons that symbolize love, and dried pasta, cooked pasta and other dishes. Tomatoes and olives typically adorn the altars.