ITALY is a predominantly Catholic country, and many of its citizens are named after saints.

The great news is that, if you are named after a saint, you get to celebrate your onomastico. Your onomastico – known in English as name day – is a bit like having a second birthday. If you have the same name as a saint, this saint is known as your patron.

The feast day of your patron saint (a date assigned by the church) will be the day on which you celebrate your name day.

Traditionally, you would pray to your patron saint, in the hope that they would watch over you.

It is thought they would be sure to protect those named after them.

It is a tradition that has been honoured in Italy for centuries – especially in the south – with some considering it to be even more important than one’s birthday. Even to this day, cards and gifts are given, and food is enjoyed in honour of your saint.

March saw the celebration of San Giuseppe – more commonly known in this country as Saint Joseph’s Day – on the 19th. Joseph was the husband of the Virgin Mary, and the foster-father of Jesus Christ.

In Sicily specifically, thanks are given to San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph) for preventing a famine during the Middle Ages.

According to legend, there was a terrible drought and so the people prayed for rain and promised that if their prayers were answered, they would host a feast to honour San Giuseppe. The rain came, and Saint Joseph’s Day was born.

There are many traditions Italians follow to mark San Giuseppe. Bonfires are often lit – a tradition adopted from paganism. March 19 is one of the last days of winter, so fires were made to burn all remains of previous harvests on the fields.

It is also tradition, during San Giuseppe, to eat zeppole.

A zeppole is a kind of pastry, sort of like a deep fried dough ball not dissimilar to a doughnut. Zeppole are usually topped with sugar and then filled with a custard-like cream.

The link between San Giuseppe and zeppole depends on which urban legend you read. According to one version, after Joseph and his family fled to Egypt, he found himself without employment and decided to earn a living making and selling pastries.

Over the years, the recipe for zeppole has changed significantly. These days there are many different versions of the pastry available to make at home or buy from bakeries all over the world.

Traditionally, zeppole are deep fried swirls of dough, topped with a custardy cream, with a sour cherry placed on top.

Whichever way you present your pastries, you can guarantee they will be a delicious treat, not only to be enjoyed during San Giuseppe, but all year round, too.

l Have you missed any of Nick’s previous Tutti Sono Amici articles? If so, they can still be viewed on the Keighley News website at by clicking on the What’s On heading at the top of the homepage, then Food & Drink and finally Tutti Sono Amici. Here you will find all his past articles and recipes.