San Giuseppe - Scicli and Santa Croce Camarina

On the 19th of March we celebrate Saint Joseph day, San Giuseppe, and special festivals and processions take place allover Sicily.
In the province of Ragusa, in the South-East, the most famous events are the "Cavalcata di San Giuseppe" in Scicli and the "Tavolate di San Giuseppe" in Santa Croce Camerina.

Cavalcata di San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph’s Horse Parade)

The “Cavalcata di San Giuseppe” is a colourful procession along the streets of the beautiful baroque town of Scicli. The “Holy Family”, with Mary, Joseph and the little Jesus, leads a parade of horses with wonderful tacks and covered in flowers, especially wild flowers growing spontaneously in the area. During the night procession big bonfires (“pagghiari”) are lit up on the way as the Holy Family passes by. The same parade takes place a week earlier in the near seaside village of Donnalucata.

Tavolate di San Giuseppe

In Santa Croce, on St Joseph day, a big stage is set up in the main square of town to collect and, later auction, the many gifts offered by people to the saint. Surprise, surprise, what are these gifts? Food of course!

From bread, sweets and pastries to exotic fruits and even lifestock. Bread is always amazing as it comes in all possible shapes, like the ones you see on the photos on the side. These are usually sold for up to ten times their market price, as the all purpose of the auction is collecting donations for charity.

For the actual dinner, "le tavolate", tables are set in people's houses with all kinds of food and dishes with the exception of meat. The traditional fava beans soup “maccu” cannot miss, then you also find pasta with beans, cod, zeppole, fennel, cassatelle di ricotta (small ricotta pastries), sweets and pastries, spinach pies, and as many early crops as possible in order to honor St Joseph.

People usually go to mass, where groups people, usually with poor economic conditions, take on the roles of the Holy Family to be invited for dinner. The families that have previously made the invitation to dinner, go to church to invite a group of these people to their house. Then, they head home in a rather special procession accompanied by music played by local marching bands.
Once they arrive, the guy taking the role of St. Joseph knocks on the door once, then a second time but nobody answers, finally after the third knocking a voice asks "Who is it?" and the answer is "U Bambiniellu" (baby Jesus) so the door is finally open and the dinner can start.

After dinner, most of the left over food (which is a lot!), is given to charity or shared with friends.

Dott. Vincenzo Giompaolo's picture of the Tavolata courtesy

Written on
March 19, 2013
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