CIAO gathers for traditional St. Joseph’s Day celebration

“Viva San Giuseppe!” was heard at the traditional St. Joseph’s Day celebration held by CIAO on Sunday.

Sixty CIAO members and their guests gathered at St. Joseph Church to celebrate.

A statue of St. Joseph was the focal point of the altar, which was decorated with the traditional wheat, dried fava beans, candles, lilies, and fresh floral arrangements. In the center of the buffet table was St. Joseph Bread made in the shapes of a cross and a staff, baked by Sherry Mullin and her young niece Alyssa Castle. RoseAnn Falcone made bread in the shape of the crown of thorns of Jesus. The leftover bread along with pizzelles were distributed to all who attended.

Father Charles Zadora led the opening prayer and blessed the table of food. All the food was prepared by the people in attendance.

Nance Ortolano, chairperson, thanked all for coming and gave a brief history of the St. Joseph Table. She explained the symbols of the feast: the three steps of the altar which represents the stairway to heaven – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; dried fava beans, representing the food the people of Sicily ate during the famine, along with wheat representing the symbol of life; floral arrangements representing the anticipation of spring and rebirth, lilies representing purity and traditionally associated with St. Joseph because God made lilies spring forth from Joseph’s staff.

Because St. Joseph is the patron saint of fruit vendors, fruits such as citrus, grapes, apples, pears and figs that grow plentifully in Sicily were displayed as well as eaten. As a symbol of good luck and humility, lentils were served.

Nance Ortolano provided the lentils; she and Laura Detenbeck, as in the tradition, served bowls of lentil soup and linguini individually.

Vegetable dishes are to be served in abundance, as well as meatless pasta. Many of the vegetables dishes provided were in various forms, such as frittatas, battered, fried or breaded and in salads.

Fish and eggs are generally served as the alternative to meat. Lynda Mosher provided hard boiled eggs covered in sauce. Mary Congdon and Sally Crisanti provided the group with meatless pasta, including stuffed shells and rigatoni.

The St. Joseph Day Bread is quite symbolic. Bread is covered with sesame or poppy seeds and is made into different shapes. Bread shaped like a hook symbolizes the walking-staff of St. Joseph; the cross represents the death of Jesus and bread shaped like a crown represents the thorns on Jesus’ head.

“Dolce” (sweets) ended the meal with the favorite sfinge, prepared by Suzie Castle. Sfinge is a small cream puff topped with confectionary sugar or filled with pudding or ricotta cheese. Other sweets included cream puffs, cookies, fudge, brownies and pizzelles.

CIAO’s next planned activity is a trip to Buffalo’s “Little Italy” and lunch at an Italian restaurant on April 2. Call Sam Crisanti at 934-2592 for details.