Saint Joseph and the Hollyhocks

In New Mexico hollyhocks are known as Las Varas de San José.

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to plant hollyhocks! I mean what could be so hard? I see these beautiful bouquets sprouting through cracks in the pavement. I’ve collected hollyhock seeds from friends and neighbors, I’ve even resorted to buying them on Amazon, all to no avail. No matter what I do they don’t come up in my garden. Because of the rain this summer I’ve had to tackle the weed situation not once, but twice. Yesterday, I noticed that a couple of small hollyhock leaves were sprouting through an old railroad tie in my backyard! It’s as if they appeared to mock me, showing me that they were in charge.

Las Varas de San José

The Spanish translation for hollyhocks is malvarrosas. Here in New Mexico we refer to them as Las Varas de San José. According to Hispanic folklore, God turned the staff of St. Joseph into hollyhocks, signaling the approval of his marriage to Mary. The Catholic feast days for St. Joseph are March 19th and May 1st. The first of May, known as May Day, is a day of remembrance for all the workers of the world. It’s customary to plant hollyhocks in New Mexico on May 1st. Not only does St. Joseph have two Catholic feast days, he’s now a part of tourism in Santa Fe.

The Miraculous Staircase

Loretto Chapel, built in 1873 by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy has a staircase attributed to St. Joseph. The Gothic-Revival chapel came about with inspiration from Saint Chapelle in Paris. According to Santa Fe legend, St. Joseph created the 360-degree staircase, since he his known as the patron saint of carpenters. Today, it’s known as the Miraculous Staircase. The Chapel closed in 1968 and became deconsecrated by the Catholic Church. Loretto Chapel is now run as a privately owned museum.

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