Author Archives: John Cutrone

Sweetness & Radiance

September comes to a close this week and as it does, we get to celebrate with subtle sweetness. We begin with the setting sun this 25th of September and the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Apples and honey are traditional to Rosh Hashanah: eat these sweet things to help ensure a sweet year ahead. You might also eat challah bread and Teiglach: small balls of dough that are baked in honey and mixed with chopped roasted almonds and candied cherries. My family discovered them one September in a local Jewish bakery. We were mesmerized by the tin plates of Teiglach, piled high into a cone, wrapped in cellophane. They reminded us so much of the struffoli we make each Christmas. We bought a plateful and took it home and the teiglach was so good, we went back the next day for another. Something about the nuts and the cherries and the honey make for a sublime combination of sweetness and substance and texture. Eventually, we began making our own, and my sister’s Teiglach are what you see in the photo above. They are so good! L’shanah Tovah is the greeting we say: Have a good, sweet year.

The next day, on the 26th of September, we celebrate the birthday of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed: our great American apple-planting frontier traveler. He was born at the height of apple season in 1774. Read his story, watch the short animated Disney Melody Time film about him. At the very least, eat an apple. Better yet: drink a tankard of hard cider. John Chapman was not so much interested in planting apples for eating as he was in planting apples for cider making. Back then, cider, thanks to its alcohol content, was a lot safer to drink than water!

We close the month on the 29th with Michaelmas, honoring Michael the Archangel. Blackberries are traditional to Michaelmas, thanks to the story of Michael battling Satan, the fallen angel. As the story goes, when Satan fell to Earth, he landed in a bramble patch––a blackberry patch. I love blackberries, but I can tell you––from well remembered experience harvesting blackberries in Maine––that they are a fruit that will make you curse and swear as you gather them. So many thorns. They lay claim to your clothes and wound you. Satan cursed the bramble patch he landed upon, and legend has it that he returns each year to curse and spit upon that same patch. Some folks will not eat blackberries after Michaelmas for this very reason.

Roast goose for dinner is traditional for Michaelmas, and it is one of the first traditional nut-roasting nights of autumn. In Scotland, there are Struan Micheil, Michaelmas bannocks, somewhat like a scone but a flatbread, basically, cut into wedges, typically made from equal amounts of oats, barley, and rye, traditionally made without the use of metal: wooden fork, wooden or ceramic bowl, baking stone. And served, of course, with blackberries or blackberry jam.

The day belongs to St. Michael the Archangel, but traditions have arisen in various parts of the world that honor other angels this day, too. Some will honor Gabriel and Raphael along with Michael. Others will include Uriel, Raguel, Ramiel, and Sariel. This is something I’ve written about in the past about Michaelmas, but will say it again, for I love speaking this litany of angelic names each autumn, and the further down the roster we go, the more mysterious the names become as we cross a fascinating linguistic bridge to ancient tongues. The “-el” suffix of these angelic names is Sumerian in origin, signifying “brightness” or “shining,” names that in their true form would be Micha-el, Gabri-el, Rapha-el, Uri-el, Ragu-el, Rami-el, Sari-el. The list continues: Camael, Jophiel, and Zadkiel; Anael, Simiel, and Oriphiel; Metatron, Israfil, and Malak al-Maut. Their etymology connects to the Akkadian ilu (radiant one), the Babylonian ell (shining one), the Old Welsch ellu (shining being), Old Irish aillil (shining), Anglo-Saxon aelf (radiant being), and English elf (shining being). Speak these names aloud; immediately we are transported to an ancient time, a time when angels were perhaps more commonly seen, in all their radiance.

Are they still around? Many folks think so, and I am not one to doubt them. In a few days time, on the 2nd of October, we’ll celebrate another angelic day, one even older than Michaelmas and one much more personal: the Feast of the Guardian Angels. Its roots are in the Fourth Century, when believers began setting up altars in their homes each October in honor of their angelic protectors. How auspicious that we get to walk amongst angels this time each year.

We begin popping up a lot throughout South Florida these last few months of the year. Here’s where you’ll find us in October:

Friday, Saturday, & Sunday October 7, 8, & 9, and again Friday, Saturday, & Sunday October 14, 15, & 16. Tickets are required and must be purchased ahead of time (and they usually sell out). Click here for tickets.
American German Club
5111 Lantana Road, Lake Worth, FL 33463
We’ll be there both weekends with our big 10′ x 20′ tent filled with German Advent Calendars and handmade artisan goods from Germany for seasons throughout the year, and right next door to us you’ll find my mom and sister in their own tent selling Mom’s embroidery work: Millie’s Tea Towels.

November dates include Dia de Los Muertos in Lake Worth and Florida Day of the Dead in Fort Lauderdale (both on Saturday November 5, sorry!), the Swedish Julmarknad (Christmas Market) in Boca Raton on November 19, Krampusnacht on December 9 at the American German Club in Lake Worth, and Krampusnacht leads us into the American German Club’s Christkindlmarkt on December 10 and 11. I’ll keep you posted of each right here at the blog, or check the events listing at our Facebook page: @conviviobookworks.




Symmetry is the Way Things Have to Be

… at least for today. Balance of a celestial sort: this is what we receive today, across the planet, on this day of equinox. Autumnal Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere; Vernal Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. The constant rearrange will bring, in the next few passing days, nights that are longer than days to our hemisphere, and days that are longer than nights to the Southern. But for today, all is practically balanced, no matter where we stand. Hence the name equinox, Latin for equal night. It brings a symmetry to our planet, best discerned in roads that run due west and due east. If you have straight east/west roads like this in your town, the scene at sunrise and at sunset today (and for a few days) will be just like that in the photograph above, with the sun rising or setting directly ahead of you, straight as an arrow. This photo was was taken in rural North Dakota, but it is the same everywhere now, for a few days… and this won’t happen again until the next equinox in March.

The moment of equinox, when the sun passes over the equator, this year is at 9:03 PM here in Lake Worth, which is currently in Eastern Daylight Time. It happens at the same moment around the globe, adjusted for your time zone. It is the start of autumn by the almanac, or, for those who reckon time in the traditional manner, autumn’s height or midpoint. For once that moment passes, the shift sets us more firmly on the path toward winter, as each passing night grows longer and darker on the approach to the Midwinter Solstice in December.

For now, though: balance. A good time for centering ourselves as we prepare to welcome the beauty and abundance of the season.

The pop-up market season begins soon! Our first big event is OKTOBERFEST at the American German Club, 5111 Lantana Road, Lake Worth FL 33463. Two consecutive weekends: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday October 7 through 9, then again the following Friday, Saturday, & Sunday, October 14 through 16. Convivio Bookworks will be there in our big new 10′ x 20′ tent, and right next door in a normal size tent, you’ll find my mom and sister, selling Mom’s hand-embroidered Millie’s Tea Towels. You need to purchase tickets in advance for Oktoberfest; it’s rare that tickets are still available at the gate. Click here for tickets and more information. It’s a wonderful event, and we plan to have our full line of handcrafted artisan goods from Germany there, for all the seasons of the year: not just fall, but spring and Christmas, too.

For the next 2 weeks or so at our online store we’re offering $10 off your purchase of $85 or more, plus get free domestic shipping. Just use discount code AUTUMN22 at checkout. We’re adding new items this time of year almost daily! You’ll find new items from Germany for Hallowe’en and Christmas, plus new Advent calendars and candles are coming this week, and we’re getting ready for Dia de Los Muertos, too. Lots to see! CLICK HERE to shop!

Image: Sunset on North Dakota Highway 5 on the 2021 Autumnal Equinox, near Columbus, North Dakota. Photograph by Masterhatch, Creative Commons license via Wikimedia Commons.


Our Lady of the Grape Harvest, or Your September Book of Days

There is something about reaching September –– and I think it is the “ember” at the end of the word, the first of a series of embers to come (save for October, whose ending still is awfully close to “ember”) –– that gives us pause. It is the understanding that summer is coming to a close, and autumn will soon usher us into winter. September is a gateway, a portal: its ember a reminder of the embers we will soon watch as we take our seat beside the warming hearth. Even to speak the names of these coming months: September, October, November, December… is to conjure a space so vastly different from that which came with the shorter names of the months before: May, June, July, August. September brings gravity, as we begin to gather in: gathering the harvest, gathering in our homes, gathering what will take us through the coming months of long nights and short days. These are my favorite days each year, perhaps because home means so much to me.

Your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for September this year focuses on and celebrates this gathering. Cover star: a circa 1900 painting by Adrien Moreau called “The Grape Harvest.” After Labor Day on Monday, our next holiday on the calendar comes on the 8th of September: It’s the Nativity of Mary. Mary, who is known by many names, is known by vintners at this time of year as Our Lady of the Grape Harvest, and while the Church early on assigned the Nativity of Jesus to the Midwinter Solstice and the Nativity of John the Baptist to the Summer Solstice, to the Autumnal Equinox it assigned the Nativity of Mary. In Italy, despite all the wine made there, it is a day for blueberries, the traditional color of Mary’s cloak. But across France today, look up at most any statue of the Blessed Mother, and you are bound to find a bunch of freshly-harvested grapes placed in her hands. Across the Alps, in Austria and in Switzerland, it is time to bring the sheep and cattle down from the mountains and into the valleys: winter is fast approaching, and the Nativity of Mary on the 8th of September is known there as “Drive Down Day” in honor of this custom of moving the animals out of the mountains and back to the valleys, usually with some pomp and ceremony, the cows decorated with flowers and bells.

Click here for the calendar, which, as always, is a printable PDF, and a fine companion to this blog. Meanwhile, let me tell you about a few local markets where you’ll find us in the coming months: all kinds of events, actually, but I want you to know about Oktoberfest, Krampusnacht, and the Christkindlmarkt at the American German Club: tickets for these wonderful events are only available before the actual events, and they tend to sell out well in advance of each. I’d suggest buying your tickets early.

OKTOBERFEST at the American German Club, 5111 Lantana Road, Lake Worth FL 33463. Friday, Saturday, & Sunday October 7 through 9, then again the following Friday, Saturday, & Sunday, October 14 through 16. Then in December it’s KRAMPUSNACHT on Friday December 9, followed by the CHRISTKINDLMARKT, a traditional European Christmas market, on Saturday & Sunday, December 10 & 11. Click here for tickets and more info for all of these events.

You’ll also find us, in these coming “ember months,” at Dia de Los Muertos Lake Worth on Saturday November 5, as well as at Florida Day of the Dead in Fort Lauderdale the same night, and at the Swedish Julmarknad & Sankta Lucia Festival on Saturday November 19 at First United Methodist Church of Boca Raton. Perhaps more dates to come for some smaller events, but these are the ones we know about now. I’ll keep you posted with full details on each as they get closer, but don’t forget the events at the American German Club require advance tickets.

Image: “The Grape Harvest” by Adrien Moreau. Oil on canvas, circa 1900 [Public domain via Wikimedia Commons].