An alligator on the altar

Metairie, LA - Breads on St. Joseph's Altars are hand-crafted into symbols of the beloved saint.

Hammers and saws are familiar shapes, reminding the faithful of a humble carpenter's tools, with bread crumbs to represent sawdust.

But at Metairie Manor, an independent senior living facility on York Street, the altar includes a fearsome shape that appears to guard the sweet cookies and cakes.  It's a creature not found in Sicily, where prayers to St. Joseph ended a famine and began the tradition that continues today.

Instead, before the bread was baked, the dough was shaped into a row of spikes running along the spine of an alligator.  Sesame seeds look like the gator's scales, and raisins form its eyes and nostrils. The teeth, thankfully, remain hidden.

Frances Munaco, Treasurer of the Metairie Manor Guild, describes the labor of love that reflects both the miracle of St. Joseph and life in southeast Louisiana.