Mar 19, 2024 - News

Guide to St. Joseph's Day altars in New Orleans

Photo shows a St. Joseph's Day altar in Dorignac's

The St. Joseph's Day altar in Dorignac's features the Sicilian flag, a statue of the saint and many foods with symbolic importance. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios

It's St. Joseph's Day and a big deal for Catholic New Orleanians with Italian ancestry.

Why it matters: These celebrations are part of the rich multicultural heritage of the city.

The big picture: St. Joseph's Day is named after Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary and the earthly father to Jesus. It's also Father's Day in Italy.

  • Catholics in New Orleans observe the day by creating altars laden with food to honor the relief St. Joseph provided during a drought in Sicily, the archdiocese says.
  • Sicilian immigrants brought the tradition to New Orleans when they settled here in the late 1800s, according to New Orleans and Co.
  • There were so many Italian immigrants, the French Quarter was nicknamed "Little Palermo" after the Sicilian capital.
Photo shows a St. Joseph's altar with cakes, breads, and candles.
A previous St. Joseph's Day altar at Angelo Brocato's on North Carrollton Avenue features breads, cookies and candles. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Driving the news: The St. Joseph's altars are open to the public and one of the most visible ways the day is celebrated, other than the annual parade.

  • They are usually constructed in the shape of a cross and include a statue of St. Joseph, flowers and the Italian flag colors of red, white and green, the archdiocese says.
  • The altar tables are filled with food of symbolic importance, such as intricate St. Lucy eye pies, Easter lamb cakes, olive oil and bread in the shape of ladders and saws to represent Joseph's carpenter tools.
Photo shows a St. Joseph's Day altar with an Easter lamb cake, a St. Lucy eye pie, cookies, olive oil and strawberries.
The St. Lucy eye pie is in honor of the St. Lucy, the patron saint of the blind. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios

Zoom in: Lucky beans are one of the many traditions.

If you go: Dozens of churches have altars across the metro for St. Joseph's Day.

  • Dorignac's and Rouses also have them in stores. Irene's has one in the Quarter today and tomorrow.
  • Bring a cash donation for a lucky bean, candles and cookies.

Go deeper: Full list of altars from the archdiocese.

Photo shows the St. Joseph's Day altar at Dorignac's with flags from Italy and Sicily.
The St. Joseph's Day altar at Dorignac's prominently features the flags of Italy and Sicily. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios
Photo shows bread shaped into carpenter tools
Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios
Photo shows a cake shaped into a fish.
Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios
Photo shows baked goods shaped like crosses and sandals.
Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios
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