Herding children’s market and strong beer tapping: St. Joseph’s Day then and now

region – March 19 is St. Joseph’s Day. That used to be a big deal. And not just because the name and its feminine derivatives were very popular in Catholic areas and many were then able to celebrate their name day. Of course, that’s long gone. Today boys are called Noah or Matteo. In 2021, Josef was only ranked 144th among the most popular male first names.

Joseph’s Day as a holiday
St. Joseph’s Day was a public holiday for a long time, in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria even after the Second World War. In Bavaria it was only abolished in 1969. In some Catholic cantons in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Josefi is still a holiday today. In Vorarlberg and other Austrian federal states, there is at least no school and central state facilities remain closed. But even if St. Joseph’s Day was abolished as a public holiday, the rest from work was often observed for a long time in the country on that day.

It also somehow fits that in many places in Bavaria the strong beer season traditionally begins on St. Joseph’s Day. Many rural weather rules also refer to the day in mid-March, such as “If it’s clear on St. Joseph’s Day, it saves us a lot of hardship and trouble.”

Important key date in the financial year
The commemoration day has a long history. The saint has been commemorated on March 19th since the 10th century. 1621 was the day of Pope Gregory XV. then officially included in the Roman general calendar. Similar to Martini (November 11) and Candlemas (February 2), Josefi was an important date in the financial year. At that time, seasonal workers were hired in the countryside. In Upper Swabia, for example, this affected the so-called Swabian children, who came mainly from Vorarlberg and Tyrol to work on the farms during the summer. The hat children’s markets, for example in Friedrichshafen or Ravensburg, where the children were hired out, always took place on or around March 19th.

From Vorarlberg, on the other hand, the famous builders from the Bregenzerwald made their way to their large and small construction sites in southern Germany or in Switzerland on St. Joseph’s Day in the Baroque period. Until Martini, for example, the Beer, Moosbrugger and Thumb continued to work on the monumental monastery churches in Weingarten and Einsiedeln, for example, or on the pilgrimage church in Birnau.

Joseph – the first modern father
The meaning of the commemoration day also reflects the view of Saint Joseph, whose name means “God added” in Hebrew. According to a recent cover story in the weekly newspaper ZEIT, he experienced a “strangely lurching career” in his perception. In the New Testament Joseph only plays a role at the very beginning, but an important one: after a dream he overcomes his doubts, marries the pregnant Mary and becomes the “nurturing father of Jesus”. After another dream, he flees to Egypt with his family, who thus escape Herod’s captors. He is mentioned for the last time when he finds the twelve-year-old Jesus with Mary in the temple. With his patchwork family, Josef proves to be the first modern father, judges ZEIT.

Joseph – the patron saint of craftsmen and married couples
The evangelist Matthew, who writes the most about Joseph, calls him a “tékton” in his Greek text. That can be translated as a master builder. Martin Luther made a carpenter out of him in German. Therefore, Joseph is considered the patron saint of workers and craftsmen. And as a carpenter, for example equipped with a plane or an angle iron, we encounter him in many pictorial representations of modern times. On the other hand, his chastity is alluded to where he holds a white lily in his hand. He is also the patron saint of virgins and married couples. He is also traditionally invoked for a good death.

Joseph – the patron saint of the church
Especially since the 15th century, the veneration of the saint has increased steadily. Many churches and chapels have been dedicated to him over the centuries. In the 17th and 18th centuries, brotherhoods of Joseph were formed in many places. And Pope Pius IX. even makes the saint the patron saint of the entire church in 1870. As a reaction to the political labor movement, Pope Pius XII. 1955 May 1st to commemorate “Josef the Worker”. Finally, Pope Francis referred to all the workers who are particularly challenged during the pandemic when he declared 2021 the Year of Joseph.

Joseph as a figure was and is obviously always very relevant, whether as the patron saint of workers or as the prototype of the modern father. But the day of Joseph? Sure, there are a few stragglers who mourn its former glory. In Aichach in Bavarian Swabia, for example, the somewhat bizarre Royal Bavarian Joseph Party has its headquarters, whose main concern is to revive the holiday.

A new initiative for Joseph’s Day
The fact that another initiative might be more promising is already suggested by its snappy logo with the skateboarder. The Federation of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ) and the Federal Working Group for Catholic Youth Social Work (BAG KJS) are among others the sponsors of the nationwide decentralized day of action, which will take place again this year under the name of Josefstag. It is about paying attention to the work of the youth social welfare institutions, in particular the youth vocational welfare, in Catholic sponsorship.

Yes, Saint Joseph’s Day is no longer what it used to be. If someone still wants to celebrate it today, then of course it is up to you whether you want to go to the strong beer tapping session or to an event on the day of action. Or whether he pauses at the Josef altar on the Gottesberg in Bad Wurzach or one of the many other Josef sites.
Text and images: Herbert Eichhorn

The altarpiece on the right side altar on the Gottesberg in Bad Wurzach shows the death of Saint Joseph. Jesus shows the way to the Father. Saint Joseph is also the patron saint of the dying.

02The baroque Joseph on the side altar of the Bad Wurzach parish church

The baroque Joseph on the side altar of the parish church in Bad Wurzach.

03Josef as the patron saint of the Salvator College in the castle chapel in Bad Wurzach

Joseph as the patron saint of the Salvator College in the Bad Wurzach Castle Chapel.

04Josef the carpenter in a neo-Gothic altar in Ingoldingen

Josef the carpenter in a neo-Gothic altar in Ingoldingen. A family idyll: Mary with Jesus on the left, Joseph at work on the right. Three putti complement the pretty scene.

05Josef with the lily as the patron saint of virgins and married couples at the end of Herrenstrasse in Bad Wurzach

Joseph with the lily as the patron saint of virgins and married couples at the end of Herrenstrasse in Bad Wurzach.

The article is in German

Tags: Herding childrens market strong beer tapping Josephs Day

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