St. Joseph’s Day - Dzień Świętego Józefa
For those who still observe Polish name day or imieniny, the name “Joseph” presents special problems. The feast day of St. Joseph falls on March 19, right in the middle of Lenten fasting. To allow the many Josephs to celebrate their name day, the Roman Catholic church grants a dispensation, allowing a "festive fast" of meatless foods.
In American Polonia, St. Joseph's Day took on special significance. From the 1890s-1930s, the waves of Polish and Italian immigrants were faced with a largely Irish Roman Catholic clergy that was unsympathetic to a group of peoples whose language and culture they didn’t understand. So Poles and Italians built their own churches, importing priests from Poland and Italy, and created schools that preserved their heritage.
Not to be outdone by the huge celebrations of St. Patrick's Day on March 17, St. Joseph's Day, just two days later on March 19, became a chance for Polish-Americans and Italian-Americans to express their ethnic pride with the "wearing of the red," a color that appears in both countries' flags. Parades and huge meatless feasts known as St. Joseph's Tables or St. Joseph's Altars were held. For Poles, many American parishes hold these banquets in the church hall with tables decorated in red and white, a statue or holy cards of St. Joseph, flowers and a donation bowl for the needy. Sometimes there is a bread baked in the shape of St. Joseph's staff over which a blessing is made and the feasting begins.
In Poland, name days are a special time for family and friends to gather. Sometimes friends and family simply stop by to wish the person celebrating their name day Wszystkiego najlepszego! (All the best!) and Sto lat! (A hundred years!) If gifts are given, they are usually flowers or chocolates and, sometimes, a little vodka for toasting.
St. Joseph's Day Proverb
Swiety Jozef kiwnie broda, idzie zima nadol z woda. (St. Joseph shakes his beard, and see, winter has disappeared!)
See also St. Joseph's Day by Prof. Ann Hetzel Gunkel.