Monday, March 19, 2012


Saint Joseph's Day, March 19, celebrates the patron saint of Sicily. Everybody knows St. Patrick with his green beer and shamrocks, but in Italian neighborhoods today is the Feast of St. Joseph. I don't blame you for not knowing, since St. Joseph didn't have a huge advertising budget. Besides, Sicilians tend to keep things on the down-low. If you're lucky enough to be near an Italian neighborhood, you might find a St. Joseph's Day altar where people place offerings of flowers, candles, fruit, vino, fava beans, cakes, breads, cookies and zeppole--a delicious Sicilian pastry. Today, you might eat pasta con le sarde topped with breadcrumbs as a reminder of the less fortunate who can't afford to eat cheese. (Some say the breadcrumbs resemble sawdust from St. Joseph's floor, since St. Joseph was a carpenter, but these traditions go back centuries and nobody really knows.) Ask the oldtimers sitting outside sipping grappa, and they'll tell you today we celebrate all things Italian from the Renaissance to Sophia Loren. They say that Americans are oblivious to their own culture, and certainly don't recognize the myriad cultural contributions of the Italians, even as they sip their espresso and eat their pizza. That might be true. With the exception of recent arrivals, most Americans assimilated a long time ago and lost connection to their own "Old Country" ways. Simply put, they joined the mainstream. That's fine, but kind of boring. We think it's good to remember where we came from--to be full-fledged Americans but also celebrate the victories and struggles of our ancestors and appreciate our past. In the meantime, I'll let you in on something: What's the secret to enjoying life? Be Italian. If you can't do that, you can be an honorary Italian today. This clip from the Broadway play "Nine," explains how.

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