Auguri Papà: Father’s Day in Italy on St. Joseph’s Feast Day

I’m so looking forward to heading back to Italy, what I call the Motherland, the place of my heritage. But given that my upcoming trip takes place in March, I should temporarily refer to it the “fatherland,” and here’s why.

March is a wonderful time to visit Italy. The weather is comfortable, cool but comfortable temperatures in the upper 50’s and low 60’s, with an increased chance of some rain. If you pack a waterproof jacket, and dress in layers you’re all set to enjoy Bella Italia, and because of the time of year being the off-season, as far as tourism is concerned, no need to pack extra patience since you won’t find massive crowds. What you will find in Italy, in addition to the well-known Carnivale celebrations, is a wonderful holiday that remind Italians of the importance of fathers.

Italy celebrates its Father’s Day on March 19th, which also happens to be an important feast day in the Catholic Church, the feast of St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. Being that Italy is such a Catholic country, many of their other holidays are often connected to saints. And this day is a national holiday in Italy. Like many countries around the globe, however, despite strong ties to the Catholic Church, Italy’s family structure has been greatly impacted by divorce and other societal issues. So Father’s Day can help families of all shapes and sizes get back to basics, with St Joseph leading the way.

St. Joseph is loved and celebrated during Italy’s version of Father’s Day, so much so that you will notice numerous nativity-type scenes displayed in a variety of locations, based on his life. Bon fires are also lit across the country in his honor. Children make and/or write special Festa del Papa cards to their fathers and grandfathers as well as give them gifts. And being that this is Italy, no holiday would be complete without special dishes or dolce (sweets). In Italian American homes, round loaves of crusty bread, known as St. Joseph’s bread, are commonplace at our lunch and dinner tables. In Italy, it’s all about pastries for Papa including zeppole, which are delectable treats filled with cream or custard, and most common in Italy’s southern regions. Across the country, a cream puff like dessert, binge’ di San Giuseppe, is served. Not exactly good for those giving up sweet treats for Lent, but that is the tradition nonetheless, and a delicious one at that. Godere’, auguri papa, and san giuseppe prega per noi. Enjoy! Happy Father’s Day. And most importantly, St. Joseph pray for us.


Art: Guido Reni, 1620/Wikimedia Commons