When the Sicilians began immigrating to New Orleans in large numbers in the 1880s, they brought with them the tradition of the Feast of Saint Joseph, which includes building elaborate St. Joseph’s Day altars. The practice began in the old country during the Middle Ages after prayers to St. Joseph (husband of Mary) were answered during a drought. When the rains came, so did a hearty fava bean crop and the population was saved from starvation.
St. Joseph altars can be found in New Orleans at churches with strong Italian roots, but you’ll also see them in restaurants, grocery stores, bars and private homes. If you see a fresh green branch over a doorway, it means “Come on in an share our altar!” Here's where you'll find them.
There are twenty-five St. Joseph's Day altars in Catholic churches all over the city. See this list from the Archidoces of New Orleans.
Drop by Beauregard-Keyes House on March 17th, 18th or 19th to honor the Sicilian Catholic tradition and discover why it’s important to Beauregard-Keyes House. Fun trivia: the famous yellow house across from the old Ursuline Convent in the French Quarter is the former home of chess champion Paul Morphy, General Pierre Gustav Beauregard, author Francis Parkinson Keyes and others. Learn more.
Every year, Rouses team members build altars to the delight of their customers. It's an amazing tradition you won't want to miss.
Discover more Italian culture and history in New Orleans at the American Italian Cultural Center at 537 South Peters Street. Be sure and visit the Piazza d’Italia next door, a monument by renowned architect Charles Moore.