by Michele Alonzo
Every year, the month of March brings a traditional family event in Italian homes: Father's Day, which falls on March 19th, the day celebrating one of the most popular saints on the Christian-Catholic calendar: St. Joseph.
Italy, along with three other major European countries (Spain, Portugal and Switzerland) celebrates this holiday in March. In fact, in many other parts of the world, including the United States, the day for all fathers falls on the third Sunday of June.
The name "papà" is the French derivation of the name "father" and is used more in the south, while in some regions of the north, and especially in Tuscany, the name "babbo" is used instead. That explain also why Santa Claus is Babbo Natale in Italian (Father Christmas).
It is no coincidence that in some Catholic countries this celebration coincides with the name-day of Joseph, the putative father of Jesus. Furthermore, in the popular Christian tradition, this saint protects the poor, the orphans, the unmarried girls and, by virtue of his profession, he is considered the patron of carpenters.
In many Italian regions, especially in the South, on St. Joseph's Day special banquets are set up to host and serve food to the poor and the derelicts.
In Italian families it is tradition for children to give a small personal gift to their father. Sometimes the little ones write a letter that they leave on the table, under the father's plate or napkin, or they sing some nice nursery rhymes.
In some rural areas of the south, Father's Day features large bonfires, a sign of purification and good wishes for the harvest in the countryside. On this day, in many Sicilian towns there are exhibits of artifacts and objects produced by local artisans. In Orvieto, for example, whose patron saint is Giuseppe, a “frittellata” is organized with the distribution of traditional fritters and local wine to all participants.
And we cannot forget mentioning the delicious traditional "zeppole di San Giuseppe", which date back to the ancient Roman period. The windows of pastry shops are full of these desserts during the period of Father’s Day. They are similar to cream puffs, with a crushed shape, of varying size, but typically about four inches. There are two types of zeppole, deep-fried or baked, and they are usually decorated with sweet cream and cherry jam. How tasty! Best wishes to all dads!