The Altars of St. Joseph are one of the most involving popular traditions that occur every year in Campomarino as like as in other Molisan towns for example Termoli. Between the afternoon of the Marz 18th and the lunchtime of the next day, a non-stop crowd visits altars and long tables prepared by the women in various houses across the town centre. For this occasion, a dish called Devozione di S. Giuseppe (Worship of St. Joseph), made with cereals and boiled legumes, is prepared. It’s given to relatives and neighbors and, once, it was brought by children to receive back some gifts. It’s also usual to donate blessed bread and sweets, like Zeppole and Petuazz, and spaghetti with fried bread crumb.
In Molise the tradition of the Altars of St. Joseph is still alive in many places: it began in the mid 1800s thanks to a woman from S. Martino in Pensilis.
The core of this tradition is the altar, a true temporary monument erected to the Saint on a base of one or two steps, in order to make it more visible. Hanging on it there’s a picture representing Holy Family. All around, the decoration is made with silk covers, ribbons, laces and tablecloth. On the ground there are vases of flowers and sprout corn. Next to the altar there is the long table with every kind of food: fish, oil, vegetables, fruits and sweets. Fat food, like sausages and cheese, is strictly forbidden because this is the Lent period. The table of St. Joseph is organized first of all by a family, but also the neighborhood gives his contribution. Something never missing are three big bread loafs, with a stick, a cross and a crown sketched on them, representing Joseph, Jesus and Mary, the Holy Family.
Boys with fake wings and with dress, girls and some devout women, respectively angels, virgins and bigots, sing the lauds of the Saint and the Virgin: Old S. Joseph with a shoe and a slipper. After the altar’s closure the food left on the tables is donated to soup kitchens or parishes: this represents the typical Christian significance of the altars tradition. It has a rigid development: after the welcome at home and the usual prayers, people start eating. The lunch is made of 13 dishes that are only tasted, as it is impossible to eat all of them.
The feast of St. Joseph ends with a solemn Mass and a procession through the street, with strong participation of all the people.