Category Archives: Advent

Dispel the Night: Your December Book of Days

The Twelfth Month of the year has arrived. It’s December, last of the Ember Months. It is the time of greatest darkness in the Northern Hemisphere. As such, it is a month filled with light of our own making: the illuminated lights on our houses, the candles burning in our advent wreaths and menorahs and kinaras and on the wreaths worn by Lucias in Sweden in their processions through dark churches, accompanied by girls dressed all in white, carrying candles, and by star boys, in white as well, with candles and conical caps on their heads. Such long long nights, and yet so much illumination, dispelling the darkness. This is the theme of December.

And here is your Convivio Book of Days calendar for December, as well. Light is our cover star, in the form of the advent wreath, so rich with meaning. Each Sunday, we light one more candle. The nights of December grow darker and darker, and we respond with more and more light: that light of our own making, the light of hope and love and kindness. Indeed we are reminded this month, over and over again, that we are given the opportunity to be light bearers, in how we respond to the darkness and to each other. It’s in our hands.

Tomorrow brings, as well, the first of the midwinter gift bearers: the 5th brings the Eve of St. Nicholas’ Day, and the good saint travels far and wide delivering presents… often accompanied by dark companions, known as Krampus, Pelznickel, Black Peter, or Knecht Ruprecht, depending on where you are. Darkness and light: close companions. Leave out your shoes, and fill them with sweet hay and carrots for St. Nicholas’ donkey!

We’re popping up at quite a few local South Florida venues through mid December. The big event this weekend? The Christkindlmarkt at the American German Club!

Real Mail Fridays: Winter Card Writing Social
Friday December 6 from noon to 6 PM
at Jaffe Center for Book Arts in the Library at Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Road in Boca Raton
There’ll be a mini Makers Marketplace at this annual event so you can do a little shopping, but also bring your Christmas cards and Hanukkah cards and New Year cards and get the task of writing them started (or tackled) in a festive environment with other like minded souls. Great fun!

Saturday & Sunday December 7 & 8 (2 to 9 PM on Saturday; 1 to 8 PM on Sunday)
at the American German Club
5111 Lantana Road in suburban Lake Worth
Convivio Bookworks will be part of this old time German Christmas market at the American German Club, west of the town of Lantana. At our booth you’ll find traditional handmade German Christmas items, and plenty of other handmade items from our Swedish and Mexican collections, too, as well as Shaker herbs & teas, and my mom’s famous handmade candy wreaths.

Undiscovered: An Inclusive Arts Festival
Saturday December 14 from 10 AM to 4 PM (but we have to pack up by 3!)
at Palm Beach Habilitation Center
4522 South Congress Avenue in Lake Worth
We’re so excited to take part in this inaugural arts fair at the Hab Center, which does such wonderful work helping folks with disabilities become more independent through training and employment. There are art projects that EVERYONE can participate in, and there’s a pop up market; we’ll be there with lots of great artisan goods from our catalog.

Holiday Night Market
Saturday December 14 from 4 to 8 PM
at Social House
512 Lucerne Avenue in Downtown Lake Worth
It’s always a special night at Social House. We’ll be showing our Christmas artisan goods and Shaker teas (and my mom’s famous candy wreaths). One of our favorite markets at one of our favorite places!

Midwinter Makers Marketplace
Sunday December 15 from 10 AM to 4 PM
at Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Road in Boca Raton
It’s full swing yuletide and we’ll be showing our handmade artisan Christmas ornaments and decorations from Germany, Sweden, and Mexico and our full line of Shaker herbs & teas and more (like my mom’s famous candy wreaths). Plus there’s live music almost all day: Ella Herrera from 10 to 1 and Rio Peterson from 1 to 4. Look for the blue & white MAKERS MARKETPLACE signs on FAU campus roads.

Revelry Sip & Shop
Sunday December 15 from 1 to 6 PM
at Revelry Lake Worth
17 South J Street in Downtown Lake Worth
Find us in the courtyard with our handmade Christmas artisan goods and Shaker herbs and teas and more (including my mom’s famous candy wreaths again!). They’re serving mimosas!




Today, the First of December, begins the Advent season, a time of preparation for Christmas. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the nights grow increasingly darker on the road toward the Winter Solstice, and we counter that increasing darkness by increasing light from within. The sun may be growing weaker, sinking lower and lower in the sky, but each Sunday, beginning tonight, we light more and more candles in our homes. The tradition in most places is a ring of four candles, three of which are purple, one rose (or pink). Some cultures use three blue candles and a white one in place of the purple and rose candles, but the sentiment is the same. The first purple candle is lit tonight, on the First Sunday of Advent: one candle in the darkness. Come the Second Sunday, we light two purple candles. The Third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday and we light those same two purple candles plus the rose one, to symbolize a hint of joy and greater excitement as we get closer to Christmas. And on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, all four candles are lit. By then, we are deep into the darkest nights of the year, and our four candles are quite a beacon of light, and of hope.

This year, the Fourth Sunday of Advent happens to be the day after the Winter Solstice, which will occur on the 21st of December: the bleak Midwinter. In our brightly illuminated 21st century world, it can be easy to fall out of sync with the ever changing push and pull of our planet’s cycles of darkness and light, but it is this constant rearrange that is at the heart of so many of our customs and celebrations, the ceremonies of each day. Imagine a time before electricity, and it’s easy to understand the power of these cycles.

Earlier on, Advent began on the 12th of November, the day after Martinmas, and was a time of fasting in the Catholic Church in preparation for Christmas. This is no longer the case, even in the Church, but the idea of preparation, making our homes (and hearts) as fair as we are able, continues. In this house, we are firm believers in the idea that in order to fully appreciate the joy of Christmas, you need to set the stage for needing joy. This is the value of Advent. It doesn’t matter if your approach is a religious one or a secular one. Advent is a good time to do things with care. It’s a good time to make amends. If there are wrongs in your life, it’s a good time to make things right. Approach these darkening nights with this spirit of openness and thanksgiving and your joy at Christmastime, when it arrives, will be great indeed.

I wrote this as Advent began back in 2013. What astounds me most is that I’ve been writing this Book of Days as long as that. Also, that the dates are all the same: Advent begins this year on December 1, Midwinter Solstice arrives this year on December 21, Fourth Sunday of Advent this year falls, as it did in 2013, the day after solstice. If you still need advent candles or calendars, we can ship to you via US Priority Mail, which takes two days to most domestic destinations, so you’ll have just a little catching up to do. Check the catalog. Lots of great new Christmas items, too… new pyramids and smokers from Germany, and a brand new line of contemporary handmade artisan goods for Christmas from Sweden. Yule love it all!


Dispel the Night, and the 12 Days of Christmas

One late December morning years ago, over coffee at Minnie’s Diner, Minnie confided to me that she really dislikes when the Fourth Sunday of Advent comes right before Christmas, as it did then and as it does this year. Minnie’s never ready for Christmas, but on those years when the Fourth Sunday of Advent falls days and days before Christmas Day, she feels she’s got more time to prepare. She doesn’t, of course; it just feels like she does. But I can understand this, and I find myself feeling the same way the older I get.

I also find that I love preparing for things like Christmas, and this is what Advent is all about: making our homes as fair as we are able, making our hearts ready for Christmas, bringing more light to the world even as the natural world grows darker. We are just two days past the solstice of Midwinter. Daylight already is increasing, but it will be late March before day and night are balanced again. And so tonight, in the midst of our darkest nights, we get to light all four candles in the circular ring of our Advent wreath. In some traditions, the candles are blue and white, but in ours, the candles are three purple and one rose. Purple, the liturgical color of penitence, and rose, of joy. Each candle has its meaning. The First Sunday’s purple candle is for faith, the Second Sunday’s purple candle, which is lit with the first, is for hope. The rose candle was added last Sunday, which is known as Gaudete Sunday, and it is meant to be more celebratory. And on this, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, we light all four candles, the lighting of the third purple candle for peace. With it, our circle is complete and the room filled with the light of all four candles: Faith and hope and joy and peace. The four candles dispel the night, and their illumination means that Christmas is fast approaching. Hopefully, we have made ourselves ready to appreciate its presence.

And despite Minnie’s protests, Christmas Eve will come tomorrow with the setting sun and then Christmas Day and then, the rest of Christmastide. Each year now for oh, many years, I’ve been writing a daily post for this Book of Days, one for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas that begin on the 26th. We’re going to take a slightly different approach this year, if that’s ok with you. There’s a lot going on here… Christmas cards to make, Christmas cookies to bake, and we’re trying to finish up building Seth’s pottery studio before the year is done. It’s good to have goals. Our house is also a stop on the Lake Worth Cottage Tour this January, and to see it right now you would not believe we would have been asked. There are about a dozen projects in mid-stream that need completing: one more door to be stripped of old paint, sanded and varnished; one more doorframe that needs to be painted. It’s right behind Seth’s seat at the table. He sits there at breakfast and dinner and I sit across from him and he never sees the doorframe that needs painting, but me, I do. I’ve been looking at it for three years now. It just never gets finished. And this is how most of our home projects go. We take them to the point where they are about 98.5% completed, and then move on to something else. Agreeing to take part in the cottage tour was, for me, a chance to finish these things off. But now the pressure’s on, of course, for the tour is just four weeks away… and so you know now what a lot of our Yuletide will be like.

So here’s my compromise to you: I will write about all these upcoming Twelve Days of Christmas––and what lies beyond, for it continues, in some traditions, all the way to Candlemas at the start of February. But instead of a daily post, you’ll get maybe three posts. Think of it in a Dickensian way: You’ll be visited by three spirits. They won’t all come on Christmas Eve, like in A Christmas Carol, but they’ll come in their proper time along our journey through the Twelve Days. And hopefully they, too, will dispel the night. Indeed, by the time Christmas concludes at Candlemas, the natural world will be halfway between solstice and equinox, and daylight will be dramatically increased. Take a step away from commercial Christmas to experience Christmas in this manner, and it becomes infinitely more beautiful. For now, though, on this Fourth Sunday of Advent that brings in the Christmas season, know that I’ll be thinking of you as I’m sanding and painting and doing whatever it is that needs doing all these Yuletide days to come, but I’ll especially be thinking of you when I write. Please accept those three spirits when they come for what they are: my gift to you this Christmastide.

“The End of the First Spirit.” Engraving by John Leech, 1843,  for the original publication of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge more than he cares to see about himself, and as a result, Scrooge snuffs him out with an extinguisher cap. “The Spirit dropped beneath it, so that the extinguisher covered its whole form; but though Scrooge pressed it down with all his force, he could not hide the light: which streamed from under it, in an unbroken flood upon the ground.”