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Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Joseph Altar {Getting Started}


Around this time of year Catholic websites and blogs seem to be flooded with pictures of gorgeous St. Joseph Altars! Personally, our family's celebrations on St. Joseph's day are not so elaborate or extravagant! But since St. Joseph is one of my favorite saints, I would love to honor him in an extra special way.
I have been searching the web for an easy to follow guide on how to make a St. Joseph's Altar. I had so many questions: How do you make one? What should be on it? Where did this tradition come from?
Well, the best resource I found was St. Joseph's Virtual Altar.
See this beautiful altar HERE
A little Background to the St. Joseph Altar:
I learned that the tradition of a St. Joseph's Altar is ages old and started in Sicily after the people prayed to St. Joseph to intercede for them. They prayed for an end to a horrible famine that was plaguing them. After their prayers were answered, they made wonderful altars to honor St. Joseph to thank him for his help. Every year on His feast day they continued to honor him and create beautiful altars filled with a feast of artistically designed food. Then, when everyone had all they could eat, the rest of the food was given to the poor!

Here are some ideas I found for creating an altar:
  • 3 Tiers (steps): The base of the altar has three tiers to symbolize the Holy Trinity. The 3 tears can be made by added steps of boxes to a table top, then drape a clothe over it and the table. Their are countless ways to make 3 tiers; here is another way by Homeschool Goodies
  • Statue or Picture of St. Joseph at the top. Don't be afraid to add images or statues of Jesus or Mary, of other saints, too! If you don't have a statue or image of St. Joseph you can print one from the internet. HERE is a image I have on a past post.
  • Candles - Candles can be scary with kids around so if you don't feel comfortable with real candles buy some electric candles or make some fake candles.
  • Flowers - Lilies are a symbol of St. Joseph, but any flowers will work. If you can't buy real flowers, consider artificial flowers, or make some paper lilies
  • Fresh Fruit - pineapples, oranges, bananas, apples, grapes, etc. - lots of produce to show the abundance of food and the end to the Sicilian famine. 
  • Wine as a symbol of the Wedding at Cana. Bottled water might be good to go with the wine or in place of the wine, if needed.
  • Shaped Breads and Pastries - Bake the bread and pasties in symbolic shapes like: a staff, lilies, saw, hammer, Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, doves, Bible,  monstrances, crown of thorns, chalice and hosts, crosses, fish, lambs, palms, decorative wreaths, angels, wings, etc.   I'm sure my kids will enjoy helping with this. They are very creative with play-doh! (See recipe below)
  • 12 whole Fish for the 12 Apostles - That sounds really neat, but I don't think I could get my kids to eat whole fish, so I plan to make tuna balls and shape them into fish instead of balls! That way we can still have our 12 "whole" fish. And the kids will LOVE to eat those!  Goldfish crackers might be a good idea, too!
  • Prayer Intentions - Add a basket to the altar so everyone can write prayer intentions on small slips of paper and add them to the basket.
  • Names or Images of Our Friends and Relieves Who Have Died. St. Joseph is the patron of a happy death we ask that St. Joseph help these souls enter into heaven if they are in purgatory. 
  • Fava Beans: During the famine the peasants began to eat fava beans which were often fed to the cows. I have a few fava bean recipe links below, or if you like you can just display some beans on the altar.
  • Meatless foods: The food is typically meatless because the Sicilian peasants rarely had meat. It's also Lent, so it's still a time of fasting. (We plan to have fava food and tuna balls.)
  • Sawdust or cracker crumbs in a bowl: This symbolizes the saw dust of St. Joseph's workshop - I like the cracker crumbs since we plan to make fava soup! ;-)
  •  Last but not least: Goodie Bags! These are filled with treats, a metal, prayer cards and other holy items. A "good luck" fava bean is often put in the goodie bags, but I personally dislike the idea of a "good luck bean" because children can assume that it's a charm and has power, but as we know, God has ultimate power!
Well that's a quick list, I think I hit everything! If you see anything I forgot, let me know and I'll add it to the list. 

Now, I want to share a few fava recipes I found:
These are just a few I thought I might be able to use here at our house, but feel free to Google "fava recipes" to find more!

Here is an edible flat bread recipe that my kids and I have used in the past to make fun shaped bread for school projects.  
Flat Bread
  • 4 cups flour (whole wheat, white, or both-mixed)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick of butter -soften
  • 1 1/2 cup water
Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in butter and mix together. Add one cup of water, mix well and then add additional 1/2 cup water. Stir till it starts to take form. Use hands to kneed it and make shapes. (Don't over kneed - kids love to over-kneed.) You could roll this out and use cookie cutter if you desire.
Bake on buttered cookie sheet at 350 for 10 to 20 minutes -depending on the size of your shapes.


Don't let this intimidate you!!
**I'm adding a lot of ideas here, but please pick just a few to start! **  Don't feel you have to do it all. ** Each family has different ways of doing things so choose what works best for you and your situation.
Here is a list of a few St. Joseph altars made by other bloggers. These are very simple and easy to do. Take a look and see if they help inspire you!
These blogs all have beautiful examples of simple yet elegant altars! I collected a few ideas from some of these ladies, too. Thank you, ladies for helping to spread the faith!
Did you post about your St. Joseph Altar? Please, feel free to leave the web-address in the comments below. I'd love to see it!

Okay, well, that's a quick run-down of what I learned about making a St. Joseph's Day Altar. 
I'm planning to set up our altar during the day on March 19th and have it ready for our evening meal - so the whole family can be there!

Blessings to you all and may your St, Joseph's day planning be blessed with joy that brings you and your family closer to God. 
~Jennifer

Oh, I almost forgot...  Here is a "Blessing of the St. Joseph Altar" prayer on Catholic Culture! 


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2 comments:

  1. Jennifer, what a great list of resources and ideas! Love it! Thank you also for linking up to my blog post all about how our homeschool group celebrates this special feast day! Here is a link to my post from this year's celebration that we had on Sunday so the Dad's could be a part of it again this year: http://asliceofsmithlife.blogspot.com/2014/03/husbands-birthday-and-st-joseph.html

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    Replies
    1. Wow, Tracy! What a nice spread of food! Everything looks great! I love seeing all these wonderful tributes to St. Joseph! It's nice you could have it as a whole-family-homeschool celebration! That's great!
      Happy birthday to your hubby (I love the curls)! My daughter's birthday is on St. Joseph's day, she's very excited!

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