St. joseph's Day

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With generations of Sicilians within my domain, each year contributing cookies and meatless spaghettis to the Feast of San Guiseppe, I never imagined I would one day be the builder of this altar which permeates my childhood.  For the past two, years I have built the St. Joseph's Day altar at International House, each year more elaborate than the last.  

Traditional in shape, the three-part composition honors the Holy Trinity: the Altar, the Offertory, and the Petition Room.  On the altar, a statue of Joseph holding the infant Jesus stands at the top tier, casting an illusion of support by the delicate white lilies below.  Sawdust from the carpentry of the exhibit graces the altar, with various symbols entirely made from bread.  They intone the (edible) hagiography of Joseph and Sicily: hammer, nails, citrus, fennel, anise, figs, crosses, a crown of thorns, hearts, and lava beans.  Candle-lit and graced with white linens, the offertory provides a reverential moment of reflection, while the petition room holds a desk, chair and petition box for guests to invoke the power of St. Joseph. 

On March 19th, the Feast Day of St. Joseph, our celebration included a sidewalk chalk artist, an accordion player, a guitar player, Sfincione – a traditional Sicilian pizza by Bellegarde, and a special Sicilian cocktail menu at Loa.  I worked with Alan Walter at Loa to design a cocktail menu which continues the spirit of St. Joseph's Day.  Sicilian wines and aperitifs were offered from March 18-21, but the highlight of the menu was the "Flight into Egypt" -- blood orange, meyer lemon and grapefruit "citrucinos" infused with the gifts of the magi: Frankincense • Gold • Myrrh.  

On March 21st we hosted a panel discussion between descendants of the St. Joseph's Day tradition: Altar Makers, Master Bakers and Guardians of the Flame.  The cast of characters included:  Sandra Scalise Juneau • Journalist & Culinary  Arts Instructor  |  Kim Vaz-Deville • Associate Professor of Xavier University, St. Joseph Altar Committee, Author of Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition  |  Arthur Brocato • Angelo Brocatos  |  Sal LoGuidice  • baker and owner of the former United Bakery  |  Cherice Harrison-Nelson • Mardi Gras Indian Tradition, Maroon Queen, Curator, Cultural Warrior  |  Moderated by Dana Logsdon • Oral Historian, Baker 

This was a very special evening of storytelling between a variety of people who celebrate St. Joseph's Day in New Orleans from culturally different vantage points.  The overall event was a very spiritual one.  


REFERENCES

"Talking St. Joseph's Day Altars with Arthur Brocato"  Will Coviello bestofneworleans.com March 16, 2015

"St. Joseph's Day at International House New Orleans" ihhotel.com March 2015

"St. Joseph's Day at International House Hotel" Steven Forrester theneworleansadvocate.com March 28, 2015

"St. Joseph's Dedication" Grasion Gill bellegardebakery.com March 19, 2015