The Tradition of the “St. Joseph’s Table” – A Sicilian Saints Day Celebration

by Mar 24, 2020Blog

Foods on the St. Joseph Table of Bernice Falsone Hotchkiss.  Photos by Christine Zinni.

Bernice Falsone Hotchkiss, of Mt. Morris, NY, has been preparing a St. Joseph’s Table for more than 50 years. Originally learning from older women in her family, she prepares more than 15 distinct dishes of fried vegetables, fish, salads, pasta, breads and sweets to comprise a full meal. Her expression of the tradition has a unique twist: from about 1990, because participants had aged and could not always travel to her home, she had transformed her table into a take-out affair. Bernice, her sister, and several women work for two to three weeks to prepare all the dishes.  Then various children, grandchildren and friends deliver the meal to shut-ins, friends, and family. Her highest number of deliveries was in 2012, with just over 200 meals. She currently prepares between 70-80 meals.

Originating in Sicily in the 16th Century, the Feast of Saint Joseph is celebrated as one of the Saints’ Days within the Catholic Calendar.  In a day dedicated to the family, Saint Joseph is honored through the creation of an elaborate altar of breads and baked goods, made as an offering to the Saint in recognition of his assistance at a time of family crisis.

Below is a video portrait of the making of a St. Joseph’s Table, filmed in 2019 by Christine Zinni:

Bernice Hotchkiss and her St. Joseph’s Table