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View From Lodi, CA: St. Joseph`s Day—Mostly Forgotten In America
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March 14, 2008, 04:00 AM
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Time to wear the green, kiss someone who claims to be Irish (but may not be), dress like a leprechaun or parade down New York`s Fifth Avenue.

For those fortunate enough to live in Ireland, where the party goes on for five days, you`ll be one of a million people celebrating St. Patrick`s Day. Among the spectacles will be marching bands, street theater, a treasure hunt and family carnivals.

I`m a big fan of the annual bash. When I lived in New York, the parade ended precisely in front of my 86th Street apartment. Fortuitously, I owned two Irish Setters, a male I called Paddy Boy and a female, Corkie, named after Ireland`s county.

When the marchers disbanded, the dogs and I followed them straight into the pubs. Once inside, I introduced Paddy and Corkie to the bartenders. From that moment on, I drank for free while they noshed on bits of corn beef that the totally inebriated patrons slipped to them.

Those Irish Setters really knew how to play the crowd!

But although I enjoy the Irish madness, I have never understood why a much more prominent holy man, St. Joseph, doesn`t get equal billing.

St. Joseph`s feast day, on March 19th, passes by each year with hardly a mention.

I`m not advocating that St. Joseph`s day should set off a full-blown party. But, at least, it shouldn`t go by virtually unnoticed as it does in America.

Line the two saint`s biographies up side-by-side and you`ll quickly see that Joseph played a more important role in Roman Catholic Church history than Patrick.

Although he is acknowledged as the patron saint of Ireland, Patrick was actually born in Scotland. And the event for which he is most famous, expelling the snakes from Ireland, is fiction.

Patrick is also said to have been the first Christian in Ireland. This claim is also false, although he did force the Druids to abandon their pagan ways and baptized their warrior chief.

But, if you`ll forgive the analogy, this is thin gruel compared to Joseph`s life history.

Born in Bethlehem and settled in Nazareth, Joseph eventually married Mary, the mother of God. The couple returned to Bethlehem where Joseph watched over Mary until Jesus was born.

Joseph, the carpenters` patron saint and the guardian of the Church, is frequently described as having been "a tireless worker" and "a just man."

Unlike the spirited celebrations in Ireland for St. Patrick, St. Joseph`s Day in Italy (and especially in Sicily) is a subdued, almost solemn occasion. According to tradition, huge banquet tables, called St. Joseph`s Table, are set out in public for the poor so that they can eat as much as they want.

Special foods, flowers and linens are provided each year with every one of means in the village contributing. The display is set around a statue of St. Joseph holding the baby Jesus and surrounded by votive candles.

Of course, I come to the question of Patrick versus Joseph driven by an agenda.

I`m an Italian named Joseph, the first born to my father Giuseppe. My son is also

Joseph.

Perhaps what dooms St. Joseph`s Day to second-class status is that one of its most important traditions is baking and serving the famous loaf shaped like a scepter

Competing with green beer is tough. Maybe if we Italians replaced bread with cannoli as the most prominent symbol of our feast, we`d get more attention.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.