Apr 152014
 

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Today is the birthday (1126) of ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rushd‎ (أبو الوليد محمد ابن احمد ابن رشد‎), commonly known as Ibn Rushd  (ابن رشد‎‎) or by his Latinized name Averroës, an Al-Andalus Muslim polymath, a master of Aristotelian philosophy, Islamic philosophy, Islamic theology, Maliki law and jurisprudence, logic, psychology, politics, Andalusian classical music theory, and the sciences of medicine, astronomy, geography, mathematics, physics, and celestial mechanics. Averroës was born in Córdoba, Al Andalus, present-day Spain, and died in Marrakesh, present-day Morocco. He was interred in his family tomb at Córdoba.

Averroës was a defender of Aristotelian philosophy against Ash’ari theologians led by Al-Ghazali. Averroës’ philosophy was considered controversial in Muslim circles because Aristotle’s rationalism conflicted with faith-based Islam. Averroës had a greater impact on Western European circles and he has been described as the “founding father of secular thought in Western Europe.” The detailed commentaries on Aristotle earned Averroës the title “The Commentator” in Europe. Latin translations of Averroës’ work led the way to the popularization of Aristotle and were responsible for the development of scholasticism in medieval Europe.

Averroës was born in Córdoba to a family with a long and well-respected tradition of legal and public service. His grandfather Abu Al-Walid Muhammad (d. 1126) was chief judge of Córdoba under the Almoravids. His father, Abu Al-Qasim Ahmad, held the same position until the Almoravids were replaced by the Almohads in 1146.

Averroës’ education followed a traditional path, beginning with studies in Hadith (traditional Islamic literature), linguistics, jurisprudence ,and scholastic theology. Throughout his life he wrote extensively on philosophy and religion, attributes of God, the origin of the universe, metaphysics and psychology. It is generally believed that he was once tutored by Ibn Bajjah, also a noted Andalusian polymath, and his medical education was directed under Abu Jafar ibn Harun of Trujillo in Seville.  Averroës began his career with the help of Ibn Tufail, the author of Hayy ibn Yaqdhan and philosophic vizier of Almohad king Abu Yaqub Yusuf who was an amateur of philosophy and science. It was Ibn Tufail who introduced him to the court and to Ibn Zuhr, the great Muslim physician, who became Averroës’ teacher and friend. Averroës’ aptitude for medicine was noted by his contemporaries and can be seen in his major enduring work Kitab al-Kulyat fi al-Tibb (Generalities) which was influenced by the Kitab al-Taisir fi al-Mudawat wa al-Tadbir (Particularities) of Ibn Zuhr. Averroës later reported how it was also Ibn Tufail that inspired him to write his famous commentaries on Aristotle:

Abu Bakr ibn Tufayl summoned me one day and told me that he had heard the Commander of the Faithful complaining about the disjointedness of Aristotle’s mode of expression — or that of the translators — and the resultant obscurity of his intentions. He said that if someone took on these books who could summarize them and clarify their aims after first thoroughly understanding them himself, people would have an easier time comprehending them. “If you have the energy,” Ibn Tufayl told me, “you do it. I’m confident you can, because I know what a good mind and devoted character you have, and how dedicated you are to the art. You understand that only my great age, the cares of my office — and my commitment to another task that I think even more vital — keep me from doing it myself. “

However, while the thought of his mentors Ibn Tufail and Ibn Bajjah were mystic to a degree, the thought of Averroës was purely rationalist. Together, the three are considered the greatest Andalusian philosophers.  Averroës devoted the next 30 years to his philosophical writings.

In 1160, Averroës was made Qadi (judge) of Seville and he served in many court appointments in Seville, Cordoba, and Morocco during his career. Some time during the reign of Yaqub al-Mansur, Averroës’ political career was abruptly ended and he faced severe criticism from the Fuqaha (Islamic jurists) of the time.

A contemporary of Averroës, Abdelwahid al-Marrakushi writing in 1224, reported that there were secret and public reasons for his falling out of favor with Yaqub al-Mansur:

And in his days [Yaqub al-Mansur], Abu al-Walid Ibn Rushd faced his severe ordeal and there were two causes for this; one is known and the other is secret. The secret cause, which was the major reason, is that Abu al-Walid [Averroës] —may God have mercy on his soul— when summarizing, commenting and expending upon Aristotle’s book “History of Animals” wrote: “And I saw the Giraffe at the garden of the king of the Berbers.”

And that is the same way he would mention another king of some other people or land, as it is frequently done by writers, but he omitted that those working for the service of the king should glorify him and observe the usual protocol. This was why they held a grudge against him [Averroës] but initially, they did not show it and in reality, Abu al-Walid wrote that inadvertently.Then a number of his enemies in Cordoba, who were jealous of him and were competing with him both in knowledge and nobility, went to Yaqub al-Mansur with excerpts of Abu Walid’s work on some old philosophers which were in his own handwriting. They took one phrase out of context that said: “and it was shown that Venus is one of the Gods” and presented it to the king who then summoned the chiefs and noblemen of Córdoba and said to Abu al-Walid in front of them “Is this your handwriting?” Abu al-Walid then denied and the king said “May God curse the one who wrote this” and ordered that Abu al-Walid be exiled and all the philosophy books to be gathered and burned. And I saw, when I was in Fes, these books being carried on horses in great quantities and burned.

Averroës was not reinstated until shortly before his death in 1198.

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Averroës’s works total 20,000 pages covering a variety of different subjects, including early Islamic philosophy, logic in Islamic philosophy, Islamic medicine, mathematics, astronomy, Arabic grammar, Islamic theology, Sharia (Islamic law), and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). His most important works deal with Islamic and Aristotelian philosophy, medicine, and Fiqh. He wrote at least 80 original works, which included 28 works on philosophy, 20 on medicine, 8 on law, 5 on theology, and 4 on grammar, in addition to his commentaries on most of Aristotle’s works and his commentary on Plato’s The Republic.

Averroës commentaries on Aristotle were the foundation for the revival of interest in Aristotle in the 12th and 13th centuries in Europe. He wrote short commentaries on Aristotle’s work in logic, physics, and psychology, and longer commentaries provided an in-depth, line by line analysis of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, De Anima, Physics, De Caelo, and the Metaphysics. His most important original philosophical work was The Incoherence of the Incoherence (Tahafut al-tahafut), in which he defended Aristotelian philosophy against al-Ghazali’s claims in The Incoherence of the Philosophers (Tahafut al-falasifa).

Averroës is also a highly regarded legal scholar of the Maliki school. Perhaps his best-known work in this field is Bidāyat al-Mujtahid wa Nihāyat al-Muqtaṣid ( بداية المجتهد و نهاية المقتصد), a textbook of Maliki doctrine in a comparative framework. Jacob Anatoli translated several of the works of Averroës from Arabic into Hebrew in the 13th century. Many of them were later translated from Hebrew into Latin by Jacob Mantino and Abraham de Balmes. Other works were translated directly from Arabic into Latin by Michael Scot. Many of his works in logic and metaphysics have been permanently lost, while others, including some of the longer Aristotelian commentaries, have only survived in Latin or Hebrew translation, not in the original Arabic. The fullest version of his works is in Latin, and forms part of the multi-volume Juntine edition of Aristotle published in Venice 1562-1574.

Averroës wrote a medical encyclopedia called Kulliyat (“Generalities”, that is, general medicine), known in its Latin translation as Colliget. He also made a compilation of the works of Galen, and wrote a commentary on the Canon of Medicine (Qanun fi ‘t-tibb) of Avicenna (Ibn Sina) (980-1037).

Averroës wrote three books on physics namely: Short Commentary on the Physics, Middle Commentary on the Physics and Long Commentary on the Physics. He defined and measured force as “the rate at which work is done in changing the kinetic condition of a material body” and correctly argued “that the effect and measure of force is change in the kinetic condition of a materially resistant mass.” He took a particular and keen interest in the understanding of “motor force.” Averroës also developed the notion that bodies have a (non-gravitational) inherent resistance to motion into physics. This idea in particular was adopted by Thomas Aquinas and subsequently by Johannes Kepler, who referred to this resistance by the Latin term “inertia” (inaction).  In Optics Averroës followed Alhazen’s incorrect explanation that a rainbow is due to reflection, not refraction. In astronomy, Averroës argued for a strictly concentric model of the universe, and provided explanations for sunspots and the occasional opaque colors of the moon.

Following Plato, Averroës accepted the principle of women’s equality. They should be educated and allowed to serve in the military; the best among them should be philosophers or rulers. However, he also accepted Plato’s harsher social policies such as the censorship of literature. He uses examples from Arab history to illustrate Plato’s notion of just and degenerate political orders.

His most important original philosophical work was The Incoherence of The Incoherence (Tahafut al-tahafut), in which he defended Aristotelian philosophy against al-Ghazali’s claims in The Incoherence of the Philosophers (Tahafut al-falasifa). Al-Ghazali argued that Aristotelianism, especially as presented in the writings of Avicenna, was self-contradictory and an affront to the teachings of Islam. Averroës’ rebuttal was two-pronged: he contended both that al-Ghazali’s arguments were mistaken and that, in any case, the system of Avicenna was a distortion of genuine Aristotelianism so that al-Ghazali was aiming at the wrong target.

His other major works are the Fasl al-Maqal, which argued for the legality of philosophical investigation under Islamic law, and the Kitab al-Kashf, which argued against the proofs of Islam advanced by the Ash’arite school and discussed what proofs, on the popular level, should be used instead.

Averroës tried to reconcile Aristotle’s rationalist system of thought with Islam. He argued that there is no conflict between religion and philosophy, rather, they are different ways of reaching the same truth. He believed in the eternity of the universe. He also held that the soul is divided into two parts, one individual and one divine; while the individual soul is not eternal, all humans at the basic level share one and the same divine soul. Averroës asserted there were two kinds of knowledge of truth. The first is the knowledge of truth derived from religion. Being based in faith, knowledge via religion could not be tested, nor did it require training to understand. The second knowledge of truth is philosophy, which was reserved for an elite few who had the intellectual capacity to undertake its study.

Many people in the contemporary world are aware that the contribution of Islamic scholars to astronomy and mathematics was profound in the Middle Ages, and some are aware that many works of Greek and Latin philosophy would not have survived were they not preserved in that period in the Islamic world. Many fewer are aware of the major contribution that Averroës made in re-introducing Western Europe to its own philosophical traditions, slowly making incursions into what had hitherto been a strictly faith based philosophy.

Few Westerners today understand the difference between the Islamic and Christian worlds in the Middle Ages. For example, in the 10th century, when only about 40,000 people lived in Paris largely in their own filth, the Andalusian city of Córdoba, where Averroës was born, had a population of half a million, and had lighted streets, libraries with hundreds of thousands of volumes, 700 mosques and 900 public baths. The homes of the wealthy had fountains, plumbing, and running water.  Their cooking was magnificent, and traces of it are still to be found in contemporary Andalusian cuisine. This included lamb meatballs, a spicy sausage called mirgas, fried fish (still common), and a kind of cheese cake today called almojabana. Another survivor in the Spanish world today is the churro, a cylindrical fried pastry which is now sprinkled with powdered sugar rather than, as in the old days, when they were dipped in boiling honey. In Argentina they are filled with dulce de leche. Yum.

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The grand cuisine of Medieval Al-Andalus is little known these days.  Want to try this royal recipe taken from a 13th century cookbook?

One takes a fat young sheep, skinned and cleaned. It is opened between the two muscles and till that is in its stomach is carefully removed, In its interior one puts a stuffed goose and in the goose’s belly a stuffed hen, and in the hen’s belly a stuffed young pigeon, and in the pigeon’s belly a stuffed thrush and in the thrush s belly another stuffed or fried bird, all of this stuffed and sprinkled with the sauce described for stuffed dishes. The opening is sewn together, the sheep is put in the hot clay oven, or tannur, and it is left until done and crisp on the outside. It is sprinkled with more sauce, and then put in the cavity of a calf which has already been prepared and cleaned. The calf is then stitched together and put in the hot tannur, and left till it is done and crisp on the outside. Then it is taken out and presented.

Here is a 13th century recipe for buraniya from al-Andalus:

The preparation of buraniya, attributed to Buran, wife of the Abbasid caliph al-Ma’mun, of whom it is said that she was the first to invent this dish.

One takes a fat young sheep and puts it in the pot with salt, pepper, dried coriander, a little bit of cumin, saffron and oil. The pot is set on a moderately hot fire; a tablespoonful of soaked almori and two of vinegar are added. It is cooked till half done, then taken off and grilled eggplant is added. One adds a layer of meat, and another of grilled eggplant. Then prepared meatballs are added, and chopped almonds; all is done with a lot of saffron. Then it is thickened with whipped eggs, with lavender or cinnamon or saffron, and crowned with egg yolks. Then it is put in the oven and left till the sauce has dried and it is blended and the fat is left. It is then taken out and put on embers and left a while. Then it is served.

Almori was a very common ingredient. It consisted of salt, honey, raisins, pine nuts, almonds, hazel nuts, and possibly some flour, all pounded into a paste which was then allowed to harden in the sun. As needed, pieces were broken off, soaked, and added to the ingredients of a dish.

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Here is a modern version of Buraniya, still popular in the Middle East.

Buraniya

Ingredients

3 onions, chopped
vegetable oil
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 ¼ lbs of lamb shoulder, cut into cubes
5 tomatoes, skinned and quartered
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1 ½ tsps cinnamon
¾ tsp allspice
4-5 medium eggplants
4-5 red bell peppers
5 tbsps chopped flat-leaf parsley

Instructions

Sauté the onions in about 2 tablespoons of oil until soft and golden. Add the garlic and the meat and brown it well.

Add the tomatoes and salt, pepper, lemon juice, cinnamon, and allspice. Cover with water, stir well, and bring to a boil.

Simmer gently, covered, for about 1 ½ hours, until the meat is very tender, adding water to keep the meat covered.

Cut the eggplants and red bell peppers into ½ inch thick slices and brush generously with oil. Cook under the broiler or (best) over charcoal, turning several times until lightly colored. Add to the stew.

Simmer, covered, for ½ hour, adding parsley towards the end.

Serve with rice and flatbread.  To be fully traditional you should serve everything on common platters and eat with the fingers of the right hand.

Mar 192014
 

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Today is the feast of Saint Joseph. It is a feast or commemoration in all the provinces of the Anglican Communion, and a feast or festival in the Lutheran Church as well as a feast in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Saint Joseph’s Day is the patronal feast day for Poland as well as for Canada, persons named Joseph, Josephine, etc., for religious institutes, schools and parishes bearing his name, and for carpenters. It is also Father’s Day in some Catholic countries, mainly Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

March 19 was dedicated to Saint Joseph in several Western calendars by the tenth century, and this custom was established in Rome by 1479. Pope St. Pius V extended its use to the entire Roman Rite by his Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum (July 14, 1570). Since 1969, Episcopal Conferences may, if they wish, transfer it to a date outside Lent.

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Jesus is identified in the Gospel of Matthew 13:55 as the son of a τέκτων (tektōn) and the Gospel of Mark 6:3 states that Jesus was a tektōn himself. Tektōn has been traditionally translated into English as “carpenter,” but is a rather general word (from the same root,τέχνη, téchne, (skill), that gives us “technique,” “technical,” and “technology”) that could cover skilled producers of objects in various materials, even builders. But the specific association with woodworking is a constant in Early Christian tradition. Justin Martyr (died c. 165) wrote that Jesus made yokes and ploughs, and there are similar early references.

John Dominic Crossan in The Historical Jesus puts tektōn into a historical context more resembling an itinerant worker than an established artisan, emphasizing his marginality in a population in which a peasant who owns land could become quite prosperous. Other scholars have argued that tektōn could equally mean a highly skilled craftsman in wood or metal, perhaps running a workshop with several employees. Geza Vermes has stated that the terms ‘carpenter’ and ‘son of a carpenter’ are used in the Jewish Talmud to signify a very learned man, and he suggests that a description of Joseph as ‘naggar’ (a carpenter) could indicate that he was considered wise and highly literate in the Torah.

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In Joseph’s day, Nazareth was an obscure village in Galilee, about 65 kilometers (40 mi) from Jerusalem, and barely mentioned in surviving non-Christian texts and documents. Archaeology over most of the site is made impossible by subsequent building, but from what has been excavated, and from tombs in the area around the village, it is estimated that the population was at most about 400. It was, however, only about 6 kilometers from the city of Tzippori (ancient “Sepphoris”), which was destroyed by the Romans in 4 BCE, and thereafter was expensively rebuilt. Analysis of the landscape and other evidence suggest that in Joseph’s lifetime Nazareth was to a degree dependent on Tzippori, which had an overwhelmingly Jewish population, although with many signs of Hellenization. Historians have speculated that Joseph, and later Jesus, might have traveled daily to work on the rebuilding. The large theater in the city has been suggested specifically, although this has aroused much controversy over dating and other issues. Other scholars see Joseph and Jesus as the general village craftsmen, working in wood, stone, and metal on a wide variety of jobs.

March 19 always falls during Lent, and traditionally it is a day of abstinence. This explains the widespread custom of laying out St. Joseph tables on this day to provide food for all comers, but the dishes are always meatless. Different countries have very specific customs associated with the feast as follows:

Italy/Sicily

In Sicily, where St. Joseph is regarded by many as their patron, and in many Italian-American communities, thanks are given to St. Joseph (San Giuseppe) for preventing a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages. According to legend, there was a severe drought at the time, and the people prayed for their patron saint to bring them rain. They promised that if he answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast to honor him. The rain did come, and the people of Sicily prepared a large banquet for their patron saint. The fava bean was the crop which saved the population from starvation and is a traditional part of St. Joseph’s Day altars and traditions. Giving food to the needy is a St. Joseph’s Day custom. In some communities it is traditional to wear red clothing and eat a Neopolitan pastry known as a Zeppole (created in 1840 by Don Pasquale Pinatauro of Naples) on St. Joseph’s Day.

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Upon a typical St. Joseph’s Day altar, people place flowers, limes, candles, wine, fava beans, specially prepared cakes, breads, and cookies (as well as other meatless dishes), and zeppole. Foods are traditionally served containing bread crumbs to represent sawdust since St. Joseph was a carpenter. Because the feast occurs during Lent, traditionally no meat was allowed on the celebration table. The altar usually has three tiers, to represent the trinity.

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On the Sicilian island of Lipari, The St. Joseph legend is modified somewhat, and says that sailors returning from the mainland encountered a fierce storm that threatened to sink their boat. They prayed to St. Joseph for deliverance, and when they were saved, they swore to honor the saint each year on his feast day. The Lipari celebration is somewhat changed, in that meat is allowed at the feast.

Some villages like Avola used to burn wood and logs in squares on the day before St.Joseph, as thanksgiving to the Saint. In Belmonte Mezzagno this is currently still performed every year, while people ritually shout invocations to the Saint in local Sicilian dialect. This is called “A Vampa di San Giuseppe” (the Saint Joseph’s bonfire).

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Spectacular celebrations are also held in Bagheria. The Saint is even celebrated twice a year, the second time being held especially for people from Bagheria who come back for summer vacation from other parts of Italy or abroad.

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In Italy March 19 is also Father’s Day.

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Malta

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This is one of the public holidays in Malta, known as Jum San Ġużepp. People celebrate mass in the morning, and in the afternoon go for a picnic. It is a liturgical feast in particular Sunday in summer. However, the city of Rabat celebrates the traditional Maltese feast on the 19th of March, where in the evening a procession is also held with the statue of St Joseph. On this day also the city of Żejtun celebrates the day, known as Jum il-Kunsill (Zejtun Council’s Day), till 2013 was known as Jum iż-Żejtun (Zejtun’s Day). During this day a prominent person from Żejtun is given the Żejtun Honor (Ġieħ iż-Żejtun). In past years the Żejtun Parish Church has celebrated these feast days with a procession with the statue of Saint Joseph.

Spain

In Spain, the day is a version of Father’s Day. In some parts of Spain it is celebrated as Falles.

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The five days and nights of Falles leading up to 19 March are a continuous party. There are a number of processions daily: historical, religious, and comedic. Crowds in the restaurants spill out into the streets. Explosions can be heard all day long and sporadically through the night. Foreigners may be surprised to see everyone from small children to elderly people throwing fireworks and noisemakers in the streets, which are littered with pyrotechnical debris. The timing of the events is fixed and they fall on the same date every year, though there has been discussion about holding some events on the weekend preceding the Falles, to take greater advantage of the tourist potential of the festival or changing the end date in years where it is due to occur in midweek.

La Despertà

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Each day of Falles begins at 8:00 am with La Despertà (“the wake-up call”). Brass bands appear from the casals and begin to march down every street playing lively music. Close behind them are the fallers, throwing large firecrackers in the street as they go.

La Mascletà

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The Mascletà, an explosive barrage of coordinated firecracker and fireworks displays, takes place in each neighbourhood at 2:00 pm every day of the festival; the main event is the municipal Mascletà in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament where the pyrotechnicians compete for the honor of providing the final Mascletà of the fiestas (on 19 March). At 2:00 pm the clock chimes and the Fallera Mayor (dressed in her fallera finery) will call from the balcony of City Hall, Senyor pirotècnic, pot començar la mascletà! (“Mr. Pyrotechnic, you may commence the Mascletà!”), and the Mascletà begins.

La Plantà

The day of the 15th all of the falles infantils are to be finished being constructed and later that night all of the falles majors (major Falles) are to be completed. If not, they face disqualification.

L’Ofrena de flors

In this event, the flower offering, each falla casal takes an offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Abandoned. This occurs all day during 17–18 March. A statue of the Virgin Mary and its large pedestal are then covered with all the flowers.

Els Castells and La Nit del Foc

On the nights of the 15, 16, 17, and 18th there are firework displays in the old riverbed in Valencia. Each night is progressively grander and the last is called La Nit del Foc (the Night of Fire).

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Cabalgata del Fuego

On the final evening of Falles, at 7pm on March 19, a parade known in Spanish as the Cabalgata del Fuego (the Fire Parade) takes place along Colon street and Porta de la Mar square. This spectacular celebration of fire, the symbol of the fiesta’s spirit, is the grand finale of Falles and a colorful, noisy event featuring exhibitions of the varied rites and displays from around the world which use fire; it incorporates floats, giant mechanisms, people in costumes, rockets, gunpowder, street performances and music.

La Cremà

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On the final night of Falles, around midnight on March 19, these falles are burnt as huge bonfires. This is known as La Cremà (the Burning), the climax of the whole event, and the reason why the constructions are called falles (“torches”). Traditionally, the falla in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament is burned last.

Many neighborhoods have a falla infantil (a children’s falla, smaller and without satirical themes), which is held a few metres away from the main one. This is burnt first, at 10:00 pm. The main neighborhood falles are burnt closer to midnight; the burning of the falles in the city centre often starts later. For example, in 2005, the fire brigade delayed the burning of the Egyptian funeral falla in Carrer del Convent de Jerusalem until 1:30 am, when they were sure all safety concerns were addressed.

Each falla is laden with fireworks which are lit first. The construction itself is lit either after or during the explosion of these fireworks. Falles burn quite quickly, and the heat given off is felt by all around. The heat from the larger ones often drives the crowd back a couple of metres, even though they are already behind barriers that the fire brigade has set several meters from the construction. In narrower streets, the heat scorches the surrounding buildings, and the firemen douse the façades, window blinds, street signs, etc. with their hoses to stop them catching fire or melting, from the beginning of the cremà until it cools down after several minutes.

Away from the falles, people dance in the streets, the whole city resembling an open-air dance party, except that instead of music there is the incessant (and occasionally deafening) sound of people throwing fireworks around randomly. There are stalls selling products such as the typical fried snacks porres, xurros (churros), and bunyols (doughnuts), as well as roasted chestnuts or trinkets.

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The Philippines

In the Philippines, many families keep a tradition in which an old man, a young lady, and a small boy are chosen from among the poor and are dressed up as St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary, and the child Jesus, respectively. They are then seated around a table set with the family’s best silverware and china, and served a variety of courses, sometimes being literally spoon-fed by the senior members of the family, while the Novena to St. Joseph is recited at a nearby temporary altar.

United States of America

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In New Orleans, Louisiana, which was a major port of entry for Sicilian immigrants during the late 19th century, the Feast of St. Joseph is a city-wide event. Both public and private St. Joseph’s altars are traditionally built. The altars are usually open to any visitor who wishes to pay homage. The food is generally distributed to charity after the altar is dismantled.

There are also parades in honor of St. Joseph and the Italian population of New Orleans which are similar to the many marching clubs and truck parades of Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day. Tradition in New Orleans also holds that by burying a small statue of St. Joseph upside down in the front yard of a house, that house will sell more promptly. In addition to the above traditions, some groups of Mardi Gras Indians stage their last procession of the season on the Sunday nearest to St. Joseph’s Day otherwise known as “Super Sunday,” after which their costumes are dismantled.

Saint Joseph’s Day is also celebrated in other U.S. communities with high proportions of Italians such as New York City; Utica, NY, Syracuse, NY, Buffalo, NY, Hoboken, NJ, Jersey City, NJ; Kansas City, MO; and Chicago; Gloucester, Mass.; and Providence, Rhode Island, where observance (which takes place just after Saint Patrick’s Day) often is expressed through “the wearing of the red,” that is, wearing red clothing or accessories similar to the wearing of green on Saint Patrick’s Day. St. Joseph’s Day tables may also be found in Rockford and Elmwood Park, Illinois. Polish-Americans, especially those in the Midwest and New England, who have the name Joseph celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day (Dzien Swietego Jozefa) as an imieniny (name day). As a symbol of ethnic pride, and in solidarity with their Italian counterparts, Polish Catholic parishes often hold Saint Joseph’s Day feasts or Saint Joseph’s Tables similar to Italian ones

In the Mid-Atlantic regions, Saint Joseph’s Day is traditionally associated with the return of anadromous fish, such as striped bass, to their natal rivers, such as the Delaware. St. Joseph’s Day is also the day when the swallows are traditionally believed to return to Mission San Juan Capistrano after having flown south for the winter.

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People in Sicily prepare their tavole di San Giuseppe, their ‘St Joseph’s tables’, which display the earth’s bounty and represent the householders’ gratitude for the saint’s continued protection. The foods are meant to be shared with the poor. Three disadvantaged children are invited into the home; often these three are dressed in bed sheets to represent the Holy Family and they are treated as guests of honor. Called virgineddi, they eat from the many dishes on the table, which include pastries and breads, because St Joseph is patron saint of pastry chefs and fry cooks. They always have maccu di San Giuseppe, a stew with five kinds of legumes and many other vegetables and herbs.  Borage, which provides a green element, is a perennial herb with large green leaves that grows easily in most climates and soils.  It is not usually available in markets.  Substitute other leafy greens.

Legume Soup for Saint Joseph’s, or Maccu di San ‘Gnuseppi is, says Pino Correnti in his Il Libro d’Oro della Cucina e dei Vini di Sicilia, “a ritual soup for San Giuseppe and also a custom handed down from the celebrations of the spring equinox in classical time: the housewife clears her pantry of the leftover dried legumes in the expectation of the new harvest to come.” Once in a while when I clean out my pantry I make something similar with the tail ends of packs of legumes and whatnot – always different; always delicious.

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Maccu di San ‘Gnuseppi

Ingredients:

10 ozs/300 g shelled dry fava beans
8 ozs/200 g shelled dried peas
4 ozs /100 g dried chickpeas
6 ozs/150 g dried beans
4 ozs/100 g lentils
2 bunches of borage (or spinach or chard)
¾ oz/20 g fennel seeds
1 frond (lacy top) fennel
1 medium-sized onion
2 sun-dried tomatoes
extra virgin olive Oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
croutons made by dicing day-old bread and sautéing the pieces in olive oil

Instructions:

Set all the legumes except the lentils, which cook quickly, to soak in lightly salted water the night before.

The next day drain them, and set all the legumes to boil in a big pot of lightly salted water, adding the onion, tomatoes, and greens, chopped, after about two hours. Continue simmering for another couple of hours, by which time it will be ready.

Check seasoning, and serve over the croutons, with a cruet of extra virgin olive oil for people to drizzle over their soup.