Tag Archives: St. Feast Of St. Joseph

Part Two of My Article for the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism Featuring Gloucester’s HarborTown Cultural District

Friday was an especially terrific day for me as my article for Cape Ann Magazine hit the newsstands and later in the day, I learned that part two of my article for the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, “Gloucester Harbortown Cultural District,” was posted on the MOTT blog, Mass Finds.

I was completely taken by surprise that my photo was chosen for the cover of Cape Ann Magazine and just happened to be in Joey’s office down at the dock when Andrea Holdbook, CAMag’s editor-in-chief posted on goolge that the summer issue had hit the stands. It was especially fun to share the news with Joey because he provides a tremendous forum here on GMG highlighting all the good happenings and events in our community, and because he is so supportive towards all his contributors.

Yesterday I posted an excerpt from Cape Ann Magazine’s “Cape Ann to Mexico: The Monarch Butterfly Connection,” and the following is an excerpt from the MOTT article. Please share with your friends. Thank you! Part One is posted here.


MOTT Article
Gloucester HarborTown Cultural District
Part Two
By Kim Smith

The last days of winter and first days of spring herald the beginning of the nine-day novena leading up to the Feast of St. Joseph, which always takes place on March 19th. With its thriving Sicilian American community, Gloucester is one of only a handful of American cities that celebrates the Feast of San Giuseppe with traditional Sicilian customs. Homes are decorated with altars devoted to the patron saint of the poor and orphaned, and a special trolley takes everyone who is interested around the city to view the altars of San Giuseppe. Special Saint Joseph bread, oranges, and lemons are given to all who come, while everyone eagerly anticipates the coming feast day.

St. Joseph Trolley ©Kim Smith 2012Saint Joseph Trolley Participants

Summertime is Gloucester’s high season. The city is alive with nightly live music, an embarrassment of riches in fabulous restaurants, and bustling shops and galleries. On specially designated nights, Main Street is closed to traffic and the entire town becomes one giant block party. Restaurants open onto the street, merchant booths appear, shops have special offerings, and there are street performers and family-friendly activities at every corner.

Mayor Carolyn Kirk Family Gloucester Block Party ©Kim Smith 2012 copy

Bill and Mayor Carolyn Kirk Family and Friends at the Block Party

In August the tall ships arrive from around the world to participate in Gloucester’s Schooner Festival. “Le Beauport,” Gloucester’s beautiful working harbor, is the backdrop for the races and parades of these magnificent traditional fishing vessels designed during the age of sail. The afternoon lobster bake, nighttime nautical Parade of Lights, and fireworks that brilliantly illuminate the harbor are just some of the fun family-friendly activities that take place during the three-day long Schooner Festival.

Schooner Festival Lobster Bake ©Kim Smith 2013 copy

George and Charles Ryan at the First Annual Schooner Festival Lobster Bake

Don’t miss the opportunity to take a sunset tour of Gloucester Harbor aboard one of the exquisite schooners built by the living legendary ship builder and National Heritage fellow, Harold Burnham, on either the 65-foot Thomas E. Lannon with Captain Tom Ellis or the Pinky Schooner, operated out of Maritime Gloucester.

St. peter's Fiesta Gloucester ©Kim Smith 2012 copy

My favorite event of the summer is the annual St. Peter’s Fiesta, with both its deeply religious aspect of honoring St. Peter, the patron saint of fishermen, and the jubilant festivities that take place throughout the city during the five-day celebration. Read More Here.

St. Peter's Fiesta from Ferris Wheel © Kim Smith 2011 copy




March Always Brings Me Back To My Childhood

PrintMarch always brings me back to my childhood. Always.

me baby photo

 Some of my most cherished memories growing up are from times spent with family and friends celebrating the Feast of St. Josephs at Great Uncle Mike and Aunt Vinci Militello’s home on School Street here in Gloucester.

 For as far back as I can remember…. March 11-19th was spent in their home honoring St Joseph with traditional song and prayer.  All recited in Sicilian.  My aunt and uncle’s home altar was one of many set up throughout the city.  Dozens of families shared this 9-day tradition honoring St. Joseph. 

  Twenty five years ago…. there were over 30 families…. who constructed religious altars within their homes, in and around central Gloucester. Each home was open to family, friends, and neighbors who wanted to participate in the 9-day devotion honoring St. Joseph. Women and children gathered and prayed for a special intention every afternoon and or evening around the handcrafted altars.

Each altar was uniquely draped in silk fabrics, Italian lace, and fragrant fresh flowers, which were replaced routinely throughout the Novena.

St Joseph trick or treat (32) St Joseph trick or treat (44) St Joseph trick or treat (56)

 The shrines were brightly lit from the glow of vigil candles. These vigil candles were lit by guests who were praying  for a special intention.  The construction and setup of each family altar, was, and still is a monumental event, marking the years kickoff to St. Joseph’s Feasts and all its festivities.  The process of washing the saints, selecting a theme color, making adjustments to the altars design to accommodate new statues, and setting up the home to accommodate large crowds of people, remains a special hosting family tradition today. 

St Joseph trick or treat (55) St Joseph trick or treat (66)

 Years ago, most every Sicilian family living in Gloucester celebrated St. Joseph’s Day like it was Christmas.  On March 19th, many adults stayed home from work and most Sicilian children were allowed to stay home from school to celebrate the feast with family and friends. Over the years, the numbers of family altars, in and around Gloucester, have sadly dwindled down to a mere dozen.

After the death of my Uncle Mike, Aunt Vinci continued to host the family altar for a few more years.  But it simply wasn’t the same without Uncle Mike’s presence.  Eventually my cousins stowed away Uncle Mike and Aunt Vinci’s treasured statues, saints, and angels in vetrina Cabinets, in the living room, where they remained until last year.

 I spent years quietly reciting the St. Joseph rosary by myself from March 11-19th.   Then, one year, my dear friend Rosalie Orlando extended an invitation to me to join her family at their altar on Prospect Street. Thrilled and honored to participate once again, in a true customary way, I joined their family with my daughter Amanda and son BJ in tow.  Filled with emotions I sat next to Zina Saputo, Rosalie’s aunt, who took me and my daughter under her wing and guided us nightly, through the prayer service, clarifying pronunciations as needed. Within days my kids were humming the songs on our morning drives to school, and I felt a sense of peace knowing my children were experiencing this amazing tradition that has always been dear to my heart.

rosary beads

Last year… after 6 nights of the same vivid dream of a red and white altar….I called my  Militello cousins and shared the details of my vivid altar dream. With only (5) saints of my own on hand, my husband Barry constructed my *vision* in our living room the very next day! My cousin, Eleanor, packed up Uncle Mike and Aunt Vincie’s treasured altar valuables and gifted them to me. Last year my family and I hosted our families St Joseph Altar after twenty years in retirement. It was truly an inspirational and spiritual event.


My hope for this year, is that people (like me), who once faithfully celebrated this deep rooted Sicilian tradition growing up (and have longed to have it back in their life), find their way to our family’s altar with their special intentions, and participate in the nine day St. Joseph Novena with us.

st joseph 2013 003

This past Monday evening I posted a list of questions on Facebook: Did you grow up celebrating the Feast of St Joseph during the month of March? Do you still celebrate St. Joseph’s Day? How many years ago did you or your families stop celebrating? Are you longing to expose your children to this Sicilian tradition you were raised with?

Peter Favazza responded to my Facebook post with this share ~  I have not done a 10 day novena for St. Joseph since I moved away to Las Vegas my grandmother in Gloucester down the FORT Giovannini &Tom Misuraca celebrated St. Josephs day for 50 years to this to this day I collect Saints and statues and celebrate in my own way when the going gets tough it works every time

Photo below provided by Peter Favazza

peter Favazza st joseph photo

Gina Parisi Wingerter shares her thoughts and photo~Felicia I have the best memories at my beautiful aunts home celebrating St. Joseph’s day.

gina parisi st joe altar

Viva San Giuseppe! Luv this pic of my beautiful aunt who hosted our
family’s celebration for decades! We are carrying on with our own tribute
tonight. When I was asked for the documentary what this day meant to me…,I
answered with one word “commitment”. We will never forget or take our
blessings for granted. Happy St. Joseph’s Day!!

Sista Felicia~ Thank you for sharing  Gina, What a beautiful photo of your aunt and her altar!

What are your fondest Feast of St. Joseph memories or stories? Please share your story and photo. I know we all would benefit from hearing these traditional stories during this time of year !