BILOXI -- March 19 has long been recognized by members of the Catholic faith as the day in which St. Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, is recognized. But members of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral in Biloxi recognized the patron saint a day early.
With elements of both high church and a social gathering, an altar of food was created for the saint in the Sacred Heart Parish Life Center.
The Rev. Dennis Carver blessed the altar before the crowd of 100 or so people dispersed to partake in a Lenten lunch.
"The tradition of the altar started in Sicily when there was a famine," Jeannette Romero of the Parish Life Committee said. "They prayed to St. Joseph and the rains came and the crops grew and they decided to honor him every year on his saint day."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Sun Herald
She said about 20 people helped put the altar together, which included bread, pasta, vegetables and other items.
"We work on this for about three months," she said.
Each food item represented a something associated with the life of Joseph. Bread crumbs were placed on the altar to represent sawdust because he was a carpenter by trade.
"The breads all have a meaning, the cookies have meanings and the fish -- we have red fish and then 12 trout that represents the 12 Apostles," Romero said. "It's a way to represent Christ and the Italians, as well."
Although the tradition started in Sicily, Romero said it has become a tradition for Catholics along the Gulf Coast.
"They do this all over, but it really is popular down here and in Louisiana," she said. "They have a huge St. Joseph celebration in New Orleans where about 1,000 people work on it for several months out of the year."
She said the timing of the celebration was unique this year.
"We did this a day early because his actual saint day is on a Saturday," Romero said. "It's also very close to Easter this year and that's unusual."