The Feast of San Giuseppe
While it officially started in Sicily, the Feast of San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) is now celebrated throughout Italy. According to legend, during the Middle Ages a terrible drought and famine plagued the people of Sicily. The catastrophe destroyed most of the crops of the island and many people died of starvation. The people began praying to St. Joseph and begged for his intercession to their plight. In return they promised to celebrate his feast day by having special altars abundant in food that would be shared with all people rich and poor as their thanksgiving to him. The Festa di San Giuseppe is celebrated every March 19.
The tradition of eating zeppole for San Giuseppe is quite ancient. Traditional zeppole were originally made from fried flour-and-water dough dusted with sugar and powdered cinnamon or dipped in honey. The current, refined version of zeppole with sweet vanilla custard came much later, perhaps towards the end of the 19th century. It is believed that it was invented in Naples.
Today even though zeppole are different and the custom of frying them out in the open and giving most away has been lost, people still carry on the tradition of eating them for the Feast of San Giuseppe. The unanswered question remains do you like them plain, the traditional way, or stuffed with a piece of candied cherry on top?