Background: N is an American of part Sicilian descent who remembers his family celebrating St. Joseph’s day by making traditional Sicilian donuts, or Sfingi, every year.
St. Joseph’s Day, the patron saint of Sicily, is celebrated on March 19th to celebrate the life and legacy of the Catholic saint. According to legend, Sicilians prayed to St. Joseph for relief during an extreme famine and drought. Once he provided them with bountiful crops and rainfall, they promised him a day of devotion in return for his good graces. The festivities usually revolve around a large meatless feast due to its occurrence during Lent.
Interviewer: “What are Sfingi and how do you make them?”
N: “Sfingi are uh fried dough balls made from flour, sugar, eggs and like ricotta cheese…usually topped with powdered sugar too… I’ve never actually made them, usually just my grandma or mom does…”
Interviewer: “Why did your family choose to make Sfingi for St. Joseph’s day as apposed to any other dessert?”
N: “I don’t know, I suppose because it’s a pretty traditional Sicilian dessert, as far as I know… St. Joseph’s is huge for Sicilians since he’s like the patron saint”
Interviewer: “Do you think they’re the best Sicilian dessert?”
N: “They’re a little too sweet for my taste… but I liked it a lot as a kid”
As reflected in N’s family, sweets like Sfingi are commonplace in St. Joseph’s day feasts and celebrations. The indulgence of a treat like Sfingi can reflect the indulgence that St. Joseph offered the Sicilians in their time of need. Sfingi are a celebration of Sicilian culture and a sign of gratitute to the sweet blessings granted from God and their beloved patron saint. Lent, broadly, is meant to be a time of fasting and abstinence from the luxuries of everyday life. In contrast, St. Joseph’s day stands apart from the rest of lent due to its celebratory festivities of feasting and indulgence. The holiday’s place on the liturgical calendar represents how God’s love can fulfill and serve his followers even in times of great despair and famine.