Did you know that St. Patrick's Day preceds another commemorative feast --- that of St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus on March 19. This day has been celebrated and revered by Sicilian Italians for centuries.
Legend says that during the middle ages, Sicily was plagued by periods of severe famine and drought. Through prayer and petition to St. Joseph, rivers and streams suddenly sprang from the ground and vegetation became abundant on the island. As a gesture of thanksgiving to this great saint, the Sicilians promised to honor St. Joseph every year on the marked day of this miracle.
Generations since continue to honor St. Joseph by creating elaborate altars adorned with Italian breads, fig cookies and meatless pasta dishes (usually distrbuted to the poor). The festive celebration was introduced by Sicilian-Italian immigrants and continues to be an annual tradition in New Orleans and neighboring cities in Louisiana, my native state.