With Mardi Gras falling so late this year, it’s nearly time for St. Joseph’s Day altars to appear before all of the “bead debris” is raked up off roadsides and shaken out of trees. The food-laden-altar tradition is an ancient Sicilian one, dating back to the Middle Ages (read more about it in my 2013 St. Joseph’s post). Today, quite a diverse cross section of faiths and ethnicities maintain the altar tradition in Louisiana, but often an Italian elder is behind the scenes, keeping watch over the old ways.
St. Joseph’s Day is March 19th. Decorated altars are often displayed several days prior, with cookies, dried fava beans, and prayer cards distributed to attendees who make a charitable donation. See WWL-TV’s fairly comprehensive list of altars here. My favorite altars are always the unexpected ones: tucked into the rear of Angelo Brocato’s ice cream shop on Carrollton Avenue (2013’s altar at left), inside Fausto’s Bistro in Metairie, or in a corner of Loyola University’s Danna Center.
Or you can participate in the annual Virtual St. Joseph’s Altar online, which has a new, fresh look for 2014..