On March 19, Italians celebrate Festa del Babbo, or Father’s Day, in honor of St. Joseph, Jesus’ mortal father, symbol of compassion and kindness in Catholic tradition.
It was during the Middle Ages that this tradition began when Sicilians prayed to St. Joseph to bring rains to save their fields from starvation and drought. Some years the rains came, saving the fava bean crop and with them the people of the Island. This explains why today fava beans are still part of St. Joseph celebrations and why on this day people eat Maccu, a fava bean soup, and carry a fava bean that has been blessed by a priest in their pocket for good luck.
Italians celebrate this festivity with seasonal dishes such as artichokes stuffed with breadcrumbs that symbolize sawdust to honor St. Joseph’s life as a carpenter, or pasta with breadcrumbs sprinkled on top rather than cheese or seasoned with cod sarde. This traditional meal is made with bucatini noodles, raisins, pignoli nuts, onions, and sardines.
Other traditional desserts eaten on Father’s Day are the sfinci, Italian-style donuts. Some are made like cream puffs and stuffed, or topped, with either custard or a sweet ricotta filling and topped with a sour cherry. The other common dessert make fathers sweeter is zeppole, an Italian pastry made of deep-fried dough that is filled with sweet custard.
Italian-Americans began the custom of wearing red clothes on St. Joseph’s Day: a habit that was started to counterbalance the closeness of St. Patrick’s Day and the tradition of wearing green.