ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — An ancient Sicilian tradition continued in Rockford on Sunday, as St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church hosted its annual “St. Joseph’s Day” altar.

Many joined the church for the feast of meatless pasta, since it takes place during lent, omelets, vegetables and Italian pastries.

The tradition came to America through Italian immigrants. The altars would originally be created by families in homes, but it became a community event as people adopted a busier, more modern lifestyle.

Churches now carry on the tradition, placing breads, cakes and cookies in symbolic shapes on the altar, which is then blessed by a priest.

The altar symbolizes the beginning of spring and renewal.

“It’s very, very heartwarming, because many of us grew up with this, and you just are so happy that people are still interested to come out,” said chairperson Joan Gullow. “We haven’t had it for two years because of COVID. We had a carry-out only last year, so it’s wonderful to get back to having a full-fledged altar.”

Gullow added that she is happy that members of younger generations came out, and that it is important to teach them about this tradition so it does not become a lost event.