The other day, as I was leaving the vacuum repair store and the owner was telling me that he’d call me when my vacuum was ready, I heard another voice wishing me a “Happy St. Joseph’s Day.” The shop is very small, narrow, and cluttered, so I had to look around before I spotted an older man with wiry gray hair and a long beard working behind a mountain of broken appliances. I wished him the same. He told me not to forget to buy pastries. I asked him if it was a tradition to buy pastries on St. Joseph’s Day and he told me that it was.
Weirdly enough, this was the first year that I had remembered St. Joseph’s Day. Usually it’s forgotten in the blur that succeeds St. Patrick’s Day, which is two days earlier. This year, I remembered Mary’s husband’s feast day. And, being Catholic, I prayed for those who could use his husbandly/fatherly/carpentryly help. But, because St. Joseph is honored after hangover-day, he is often overlooked. However, when you think of how honorable he was, you realize that we need to remember him now more than ever.
Being noble and self-sacrificing is a lost art. In this era of Reality TV, it’s more acceptable to act selfishly and callously. Feel-good stories sometimes end newscasts and appear in the Lifestyles section of Sunday newspapers, but bad behavior gets the ratings. However, anyone who loves Gothic, Edwardian, Victorian, or Romance fiction knows how deeply affecting are the actions of selfless heroes and heroines. I reflected on that for a minute or two … and then concentrated on pastries.
Okay, until then I had had no idea that St. Joseph’s Day was celebrated with pastries. That didn’t mean it was too late to join the party, especially since a bakery was located on the same block as the vacuum repair shop. Being jaded, I wondered if the bakery had paid the repair shop to promote St. Joseph’s Day. After a half-second’s reflection, I decided that I didn’t care. Any reason to buy pastries was a good reason.
I race-walked over to the bakery and, after much mouth-watering deliberation, bought numerous huge cannoli, along with raspberry and chocolate dough-shaped pretzels. I added two mini cannoli to my order. Then I met up with a friend for a mile-long walk at the track behind City Hall. After our walk, I rewarded us with the mini cannoli. I told her that I had just learned that St. Joseph’s Day was traditionallly celebrated with pastries. She said, “Uh huh, if you’re Italian.” I was amazed that I wasn’t aware of this, since absolutely every Italian tradition was acknowledged, if not celebrated, by my husband and in-laws. I figured that somehow I had missed the significance of the day over the last 20 years of our marriage, but I was more than willing to make amends.
After our walk, I went home and announced a surprise dessert to my husband and son. After dinner, I presented the pastries. My husband and son appeared appreciative, but no more than that. I asked my husband if he knew what day it was. He said, “March 19.” I then asked what saint’s day it was. “St. Joseph’s Day,” he replied. Surprised at his lack of understanding, I asked whether or not his family used to celebrate the day with pastries. He had no idea what I was talking about. He said that every special meal ended with pastries when he was growing up. I took that as a “yes” and moved on. The pastries were delicious. I’ve decided that we’re going to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day once a week, at least.