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Honoring the Saints, New Orleans Style

It just does not happen like this anywhere else. As we go about honoring notable events and persons of considerable stature on the liturgical calendar, we put our own style and spin on the occasion.

Keep in mind that nowhere else on the face of the globe does a community take weeks of build-up, staging elaborate balls and parades just before a season of contrition and humility. There are a few places that recognize the time of year with their own approaches, but our celebration of the Carnival Season and Mardi Gras itself is unique in its pageantry and intensity.

Equally notable is our approach to a couple of saints’ feast days that fall in March, an important period of time within the ancient pagan calendar during the rule of the Roman Empire. Purely coincidental to our modern Christian acknowledgement. 

Saints Patrick and Joseph are an unlikely matched pair but for New Orleans they are dear friends, equally welcome, and the cause of commemoration, celebration, sore feet, a possible headache from too much “honoring” and another reason for a community to allow itself to act local.

The Irish arrive first on the calendar, although that was not the case in our history, and their party is more universal among the populace. Seems everyone is Irish at that time.  St. Patrick’s Day is noted around the world with varying degrees of intensity, except, with some irony, in Ireland. What celebrating is done on the Emerald Isle is more a response to other distant gatherings rather than their setting the pace for the rest of the world to follow.

But in his adopted-via-slavery land, St. Patrick, actually a Brit, really does have quite a profile and his 5th century Irish presence still resonates with the natives. As the Irish fled their home island during the 19th century due to agricultural disease, lack of opportunity, and just plain curiosity as to how the rest of the world lives, they took the legend of Patrick, evidently a good and kind man, with them. They also used the name as the first thought in naming male children.

Joseph was a little more straightforward as far as Sicily was concerned. He was a Hebrew laborer who never visited Sicily, and it is not even clear that he converted to the new religion that the son of his wife was espousing. All of which was enough for the Sicilians to name him as their patron saint. By all indications he was a good and modest man who likely would have not attended any of the celebrations honoring him.

Where Joseph comes to be important for the inheritors of the New Orleans Sicilian community was the onset of a drought during the Middle Ages. The population of Sicily prayed to Joseph for relief and the situation was eased with plenty of rain and in the interim the continual availability of crops of fava beans during the dry periods. In return for answering these prayers, Sicilians had promised St. Joseph they would honor his feast day by feeding the hungry.

That promise has been largely neglected except by New Orleans citizens of Sicilian descent and in pockets of faith throughout Sicily. Church altars and altars erected inside some ethnic restaurants are covered with foods, including baked goods, pastas, sauces, cheeses and wines, all offered to anyone who comes to honor St. Joseph.

New Orleanians of Sicilian descent take to the streets with elaborate and colorful parades, complete with stories of their heritage, music, historic ancestors and Church figures, and lots of good cheer. The good cheer is bolstered with appropriate adult beverages.

For both the Irish and the Sicilians, the attending crowds are lavished with beads, kisses and paper flowers. The Irish share many of the ingredients of an Irish Stew: carrots, green beans, and cabbages, while the Sicilians decorate fava beans and pass them out as mementos to bring luck.     

In the case of both groups, because of where we are, alcohol plays a role in the celebrations. And here again, this is where we part ways with other communities. We find such inclusions to be fully acceptable, even necessary. No restrictive regulations. Let the fun unfold. Should someone get out of hand, other celebrants will deal with the situation. It appears that New Orleanians are born with a Festival Code of Conduct in their DNA. Obviously there are exceptions but there is surprisingly little trouble given the numbers of people on the streets.




Irish Mule

1.5 oz Irish Whiskey, such as Jameson’s

Quality Ginger Beer


Large Wedge of Lime

Fill glass/mug/Mason Jar with Ice to the top. Add the Whiskey. Fill glass/mug/jar with ginger beer. Add bitters and stir. Squeeze lime into drink and then add the lime to drink.


Ginger and Lime

1.5 oz. Irish Whiskey, such as Jameson’s

Quality Ginger Ale

Large Wedge of Lime


 Fill glass/mug/Mason Jar with Ice to the top. Add the Whiskey. Fill glass/mug/jar with ginger beer. Add bitters and stir. Squeeze lime into drink and then add the lime to drink.

The above two cocktail recipes are courtesy of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey.


Irish Coffee

While some don’t respect Irish Coffee as a truly Irish drink, it actually did come from Ireland and was perfected at the Buena Vista Coffee House in San Francisco.

1 1/2 oz Irish whiskey
1 tsp brown sugar
6 oz hot coffee
heavy cream


Combine whiskey, sugar and coffee in a mug and stir to dissolve. Float cold cream gently on top. Do not mix. (If you wish to add a touch of green, dribble small amount of crème de menthe onto the top of the heavy cream.)

Recipe courtesy of DrinksMIxer.com


Cocktails from Italy



50%  Vermouth rosso

50%  Bitter Campari, Soda Water

Stir directly in an Old fashioned ice filled glass, top it up with soda water and garnish with a slice of orange



1/3 Vermouth rosso

1/3 Bitter Campari

1/3 Dry Gin

Served on the rocks, you need to use a medium tumbler or an old fashioned glass, stir the ingredients directly in your glass and garnish with a half slice of orange and lemon peel.



1/3 Nettare di pesca (peach juice). Be certain it’s white peach. Never use Peach Schnappes.  7/10 Spumante Brut (Prosecco is traditional)

Build drink directly in a Champagne flute, pouring peach juice first and then Spumante Brut.

Italian cocktail Recipes courtesy CellarTours.com



Not to Be Missed

Friday, March 13, 2015
Molly's at the Market Irish Parade – 6:00 p.m.


Saturday, March 14 & Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Parasol's Block Party 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.


Saturday, March 14 & Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Tracy's Block Party 11 a.m. – 'til


Saturday, March 14, 2015
Irish Channel Parade – 1 p.m.


Saturday, March 14, 2015
Italian-American St.Joseph's Parade – 6 p.m.


Sunday, March 15, 2015
St. Patrick's Day Parade on Metairie Rd. – 12 Noon

Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Downtown Irish Club Parade – 6:00 p.m.


Sunday, March 22, 2015
Louisiana Irish-Italian Parade (Metairie) – 12 Noon


Sunday, April 12, 2015
St.Bernard Irish-Italian Islenos Parade – 11 a.m.





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