St. Joseph’s Table
This custom came about in the Middle Ages when there was a terrible drought one year in Sicily. The feudal landowners in desperation turned to
St. Joseph, the Patron Saint of Sicily and promised him that if the rains would come they would prepare a big feast in his honor and invite all of the people of the town. When the rains miraculously came the landowners set up huge ban-quet tables in the public square and invited all the poor and served them themselves. After that the practice spread and from then on, anyone seeking any favors would promise the same thing and invited the poor to their homes.
Particularly invited were orphans or elderly folk who did not have anyone to care for them properly. There were always twelve in number.
If those invited to attend were orphans, they were referred to in Sicilian as “le Virgineddi” (the little virgins), and if they were elderly as “li vecchier-reddi” (the dear old people.)