The History of Zeppole: Why We Eat Them on St. Joseph’s Day

Did you know that Italian bakeries, like Sweet Boutique, crank out thousands of zeppole between January and March, and especially on St. Joseph’s Day? Yup, this is zeppole season for Italians. In fact, the most important holidays are associated with a different type of food or dessert in Italy – it’s the way it's always been! And usually, certain foods have a rich history or at least a theorized history of why they are linked to these holidays. 


So, we’re here to teach you about the history of zeppoles and why Italians eat them on St. Joseph’s Day. Let’s get into it!

What Are Zeppole?

Some of you may even be wondering what zeppole are, so we’ll cover that to start!

Zeppole are deep-fried sweet dough that are traditionally filled with custard, ricotta, or chocolate, and topped with powdered sugar, more custard, and a cherry. There are many different variations and flavours of zeppole made today.

How the Zeppole Came to Be


A Neapolitan classic, enjoyed mainly in Southern Italy, zeppole has been a craze for as long as most Italians can remember. 

Some have said zeppole were invented by monks in a convent. And it was only in 1836 that the first recipe of a zeppole was seen in a cookbook. It was written by Ippolito Cavalcanti, a Neapolitan nobleman. 

Another theory is that in 500 BC, Romans used to celebrate Liberalia, a festival with sacrifices, masks hung on trees, wine, and wheat pastries – those said to be like zeppoles. Liberalia was celebrated on March 17th, and since St. Joseph’s Day is on March 19th, two days later, Italians kept the tradition going and ate them on that date as well. But the most well-known and well-accepted theory is that related to St. Joseph, especially because Italians eat them on St. Joseph’s Day!

Why Zeppoles for St. Joseph’s Day?

Most people believe St. Joseph himself began the zeppole craze - there are actually two different theories! 

One of the theories claims that after St. Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and Jesus, he started to sell pancakes to provide for his family, therefore, tying sweets and desserts like zeppoles to his name. 

The other mentions he was a saint of carpenters and craftsmen, and there was the “Carpenter’s Feast,” where wooden toys were sold for children to enjoy. Once St. Joseph’s Day became Father’s Day in Italy, the roles reversed, and the children gave their father’s a gift. 

Typing into that theory, the original word for zeppole is zeppola, and comes from the word zeppa, which is a wood wedge used for adjusting the heights of furniture. Since St. Joseph was a carpenter, this proves that zeppoles are tied to St. Joseph himself!

In current times, Italians celebrate March 19th as the Feast of Saint Joseph, which many call St. Joseph’s Day. This day is also recognized as Father’s Day in many countries. Zeppole is the dessert known to be eaten on this day, and no matter how this tradition came to be, we’re just happy to have it! We love indulging in zeppoles during this time of year!

And, with them only being available around this time of year, you have to make sure to get your hands on some from our bakery!

Order Sweet Boutique’s Zeppoles Today!

We are known for our fresh zeppoles during this time of year! Order yours online today by clicking here! We have traditional zeppole along with seven other unique flavours - don’t miss out on zeppole season!

We provide fast and free shipping within Toronto and the GTA when you spend over $100. So, what are you waiting for? Order today!

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