Originally published on Aleteia, republished with their permission
Devotion to St. Joseph, husband of Mary, can be traced back to the beginning of the Church, with a local feast dedicated to St. Joseph confirmed in Egypt as early as the 4th century. One of the earliest dates for honoring St. Joseph was July 20.
However, a commemoration of St. Joseph was soon added to the Byzantine calendar on December 26. Many Eastern Churches continue this celebration, mentioning Joseph as “Holy Righteous Joseph the Betrothed.” According to the Orthodox Church, “Saint Joseph is commemorated on the Sunday after the Nativity. If there is no Sunday between December 25 and January 1, his Feast is moved to December 26.” This celebration of Joseph puts him near the feast of Christ’s birth, December 25, an event he was present for, according to the Gospel accounts.
In the Western Church, the feast of St. Joseph wasn’t fixed until the 15th century. According to some traditions, March 19 was the day of Joseph’s death, though there is little evidence to support it, as it is unclear when Joseph died. It is certain that he was present when Jesus was 12 and “lost in the Temple” but there is no mention of him at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, say at the wedding in Cana, when Our Lord turned the water to wine.
The Bible is entirely silent about his death and as a result, the Church relies on oral traditions passed down over the centuries.