Category Archives: Book of Days Calendar

St. Martin’s Day Lanterns, or Your Convivio Book of Days for November

I did warn you on Hallowe’en night that your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for November would be belated, and boy, was I right about that! But here it is (click here for the calendar), finally, in plenty of time for St. Martin’s Day, or Martinmas, which approaches this weekend on the 11th. Martinmas brings the conclusion of our annual autumnal days of remembrance, this time of year when we particularly keep close in heart and mind those who have come and gone before us.

Of course we honored these days of the dead at the start of the month with Hallowe’en and All Saints and All Souls. But the connection of Martinmas to the days of the dead is just as strong, through memory. Before the change to the Gregorian Calendar, the 11th of November was Samhain, the Celtic New Year. Another name for Martinmas is Hollantide, and just as Hallowe’en is a corruption of the words All Hallow’s Eve, so is Hollandtide, which comes from Hallowtide: the time of the sacred, the holy. Many of our contemporary Hallowe’en traditions come out of Hollantide traditions: the carving of turnips (replaced by pumpkins here in America) into Jack o’ Lanterns and the going door to door in search of soul cakes, which has evolved into the trick-or-treating we know today. The day is also a traditional weather marker: If ducks do slide at Hollantide, At Christmas they will swim. / If ducks do swim at Hollantide, At Christmas they will slide. / Winter is on his way / At St. Martin’s Day.

And with Martinmas, winter certainly is on its way: the nights are much longer than they were just a few weeks ago at the equinox, and still growing longer as we approach the solstice of midwinter that will arrive in six weeks’ time. The increasing darkness informs one of the great Martinmas traditions, especially in Germany, where after sunset on St. Martin’s Day, people gather outdoors with lanterns, often homemade, shining warm light onto the chilly night. And it is a scene just like this that is the cover star for this month’s calendar: it’s a 1905 watercolor by Heinrich Hermanns depicting those St. Martin’s Day lanterns in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Martinmas also has much to do with wine, for it is time for the first tasting of the wine that was put up to ferment in September. These are not aged wines, mind you, but young new wines: think Beaujolais, for instance. This has to do with timing (this year’s wine has had a few weeks to ferment by now) and with the good saint himself, St. Martin of Tours, being a patron saint of winemakers. It is also the last big religious feast before Advent, that time of preparation for Christmas. In earlier days, Advent was a season of fasting, and so Martinmas was a very big deal, a chance to indulge. Traditional Martinmas foods include goose and turkey, and also chestnuts and in Italy, very hard biscotti, some of which are baked not just twice like regular biscotti but three times. The extra baking makes them hard as rocks, but with good reason: Biscotti di San Martino are meant to be dunked in that new wine that we’re drinking on his day.

And with this day’s passing, Advent fast approaches. At our online shop, you’ll find traditional Advent calendars from Germany and Advent candles from both England and Sweden. We don’t sell anything anyone really needs, but I would say we do sell many useful things, and these simple candles and calendars are indeed useful: they help us slow down, they help us set a pace for the Christmas joy that is to come, and perhaps help us appreciate it, too, and this is the value of Advent and this time of preparation that is to come. Martinmas, Thanksgiving, Advent. Enjoy each as it comes. This is what we mean by enjoying the ceremony of each day.


We’d love to see you at our pop-up shops at these upcoming events in South Florida. These are the ones we currently have planned:

We’ll be there near the 100′ tree in our 10′ tent with a nice little shop of Advent candles and calendars and Christmas goods from Germany, Sweden, and Mexico. Tuesday November 28 from 6 to 9 PM at Old School Square, Downtown Delray Beach.

We’ll have a huge pop-up shop of handmade artisan goods from Germany plus specialty foods, too, and our Advent candles and calendars. Saturday December 2 from 11 AM to 8 PM, indoors and outdoors (we’ll be indoors) at the German American Social Club in Miami, which is where we spent Oktoberfest this year. 11919 SW 56th Street, Miami.

This lovely festival is a fundraiser hosted by SWEA, the Swedish Women’s Educational Association. It will be held at the First United Methodist Church of Boca Raton at 625 NE Mizner Boulevard on Saturday December 2 from 11 AM to 3 PM. Our pop-up shop will feature traditional and contemporary Swedish Christmas items plus Advent candles and calendars, and some delicious German Christmas cookies and candies, too. (Same day as the Christmas Market in Miami, but don’t worry, we’ll be at both!)

On the Eve of St. Nicholas’ Day, it is Krampus who accompanies the good saint to scare girls and boys into good behavior, and he gets his own celebration at the American German Club in suburban Lake Worth on Friday evening, December 8, from 7 to 11 PM. We’ll be there with our biggest pop-up shop ever as this night ushers in the weekend’s Christkindlmarkt. Tickets required and must be purchased in advance. 5111 Lantana Road, Lake Worth.

It’s our favorite event of the year! The annual Christkindlmarkt at the American German Club in suburban Lake Worth is just wonderful, and we’ll be there with our biggest pop-up shop ever, filled with German Christmas artisan goods plus more from Sweden and Mexico, as well as specialty foods and who knows what else! Tickets are required and must be purchased in advance. Usually sells out! Saturday December 9 from 2 to 10 PM and Sunday December 10 from 12 to 8 PM. 5111 Lantana Road, Lake Worth.

Image: “Sankt Martins Zug vor dem Düsseldorfer Rathaus” by Heinrich Hermanns. Watercolor on paper, 1905 [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

Snap-Apple Night, or Your October Book of Days

Now it is October and I am writing from one of my favorite places: Maine. It’s a lovely foggy morning and the leaves are still green but many are red and orange and golden, too; the swamp maples in particular are shimmering red and the aspens are quaking in the breeze. Seth is reading in a window seat next to the piano that our niece is playing (Chopin’s Waltz in A Minor) and me, I am here with you, in long sleeves and a cardigan, letting you know, finally, that your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for October awaits you. It is, as usual, a printable PDF that you may print and pin to your bulletin board or bookmark digitally for reference throughout this autumnal month. It is a perfect companion to this blog.

I have not written much lately, I know. To be honest, Seth and I have not yet figured out how to escape our sadness over Haden’s passing, and I’ve just not had it in me to write. But I am writing to you now, and the setting––the people, the music, the weather––is ideal. We have just a few days here before the hustle and hubbub of Oktoberfest Miami begins, but while we’re here, we’ll visit with family, visit with friends, maybe visit the Fryeburg Fair. We will pick apples at Thompson Orchard (I think that’s later today) and we will go to Sunday Meeting at Chosen Land, the Shaker Community in neighboring New Gloucester, to sing and pray and visit with our old friends there: Brother Arnold and Sister June and all the friends they welcome in each Sunday.

The change of scenery, we figure, will do us a world of good. Your Book of Days Calendar for this month focuses on the last night of October, which brings one of my very favorite nights of the year: Hallowe’en. My idea of an excellent Hallowe’en celebration is a bit vintage and perhaps archaic. I do not go in for all this blood and gore and chainsaw horror stuff that is a more recent addition to Hallowe’en lore. No, I have always been more interested in jack o’ lanterns and All Hallow’s Eve barn dances and games involving apples and gently ghostly stories and divination and our October cover star is a painting that depicts my kind of Hallowe’en festivity: it’s a painting called “Snap-Apple Night.” The Irish painter Daniel Maclise painted the scene in 1833, and said it was inspired by a Hallowe’en party he had attended in Blarney, Ireland, the year prior. Here’s the caption he included in the exhibition catalog, the first time the painting was exhibited:

There Peggy was dancing with Dan
While Maureen the lead was melting,
To prove how their fortunes ran
With the Cards could Nancy dealt in;
There was Kate, and her sweet-heart Will,
In nuts their true-love burning,
And poor Norah, though smiling still
She’d missed the snap-apple turning.

The scene covers many of the All Hallow’s Eve customs of the day: romantic divination based upon pouring molten lead into water and tossing nuts into the fire, bobbing for apples and other apple games, and, most certainly, the telling of ghost stories. It looks to me like a grand old time. If you, like me, ever feel like you’d have done well living in the early 1800s, this may be your kind of party, too. In case you missed it earlier, CLICK HERE for the calendar. And do enjoy.


Our busy season begins pretty much as soon as we get back home to Lake Worth, and we hope you’ll come see us at our pop-up shops at these upcoming events in South Florida.

We’re celebrating Oktoberfest this year with our friends at the German American Social Club in Miami’s horse country for two long weekends this month: Friday October 13 through Sunday October 15 and again the following weekend, Friday October 20 through Sunday October 22. You must purchase tickets in advance: CLICK HERE for full details and tickets. It is Florida’s original and longest-running Oktoberfest celebration. You’ll find our Convivio Bookworks shop inside the clubhouse (air conditioned comfort!) and we’ll have a huge shop there with all our German handicrafts and specialty foods: handmade nutcrackers, incense smokers, pyramids, and ornaments, plus vintage Hallowe’en German papier mache pieces, and some of our German springtime collection, too (since we rarely get to show the German bunnies and eggs in person). Specialty foods include candies and cookies that have just arrived from Germany, plus more new arrivals from Sweden and my sister, while we were traveling yesterday, was busy pricing all the new Shaker culinary herbs and herbal teas that arrived just before we left for Maine, so all our herbs and teas are as fresh as they can be. My mom’s Millie’s Tea Towels will be there, too. Oktoberfest Miami will be a wonderful time and gosh, we’d love to see you there!

On Saturday October 28, from 3 to 9 PM, we’ll be at Lake Worth’s annual Dia de Los Muertos celebration with a pop-up shop of traditional artesanías méxicanas: handicrafts from Mexico. This free community celebration begins at City Hall on Dixie Highway between Lake Avenue and Lucerne Avenue with face painting and music and then there is a procession to the community arts center, Hatch 1121, which is where you’ll find our pop-up shop outdoors in the courtyard. Jose Mendez, the organizer of this wonderful community event, let us build an ofrenda in honor of Haden before we left. Please visit all the ofrendas that are in the gallery at Hatch, enjoy the mariachi and marimba bands, and be sure to say hola to us. Hatch 1121 is at 1121 Lucerne Avenue in Lake Worth Beach.

Lake Worth’s celebration is on Saturday October 28 but the big Florida Day of the Dead celebration in Fort Lauderdale comes one week later, on Saturday November 4. We’re not quite sure where things begin this year. Usually they begin at Huizenga Plaza, 32 East Las Olas Boulevard, but we’ve heard things may begin this year at Esplanade Park, which is nearby at 400 SW 2nd Street. Both are nearby each other, and it should be pretty obvious that day where the festivities are. Wherever it begins, you’ll find the Convivio Bookworks tent filled with traditional artesanías méxicanas: handicrafts from Mexico, from 3 to 7 PM. We’ll be there until after the Skeleton Procession departs and heads to the second half of the celebration, which continues into the night.

Sorry to report we will not be at the Oktoberfest celebration at the American German Club in Lake Worth this year… but we will be there with our biggest pop-up shop ever for Krampusnacht on Friday evening, December 8, followed by their lovely Christkindlmarkt that weekend, December 9 & 10. We’ll have other Christmas markets to tell you about, too, in Miami and in Boca Raton and in Delray Beach.

Until Oktoberfest, we wish you all good things from Maine.
John & Seth


Image: “Snap-Apple Night, or On the Festival of Hallow Eve” by Daniel Maclise. Oil on canvas, 1833. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.


A Symphony of Bells, or Your September Book of Days

In the previous chapter of the Convivio Book of Days, the one about the Bartlemas Wayzgoose, I gave brief mention to the fact that the printers’ Wayzgoose festivities that come out of St. Bartholomew’s Day on the 24th of August are rooted in an acknowledgment of the waning days of summer giving way to fall. I know many of you were not keen on hearing that, and yet today we have a deeper acknowledgment of the turning of the wheel of the year, for it is now September, and once we get to these Ember Months, which is what I like to call these last few months of the year, since they all end with -ember, save for October (and even October ends in something much like -ember)… well, once we get to these Ember Months, there is no denying that summer’s days are few indeed and autumn will soon be made welcome: welcome or welcome not.

In the Swiss Alps, the cows who wear such distinctive sounding bells around their necks have been up in the mountain meadows all summer long, but come the Feast of the Nativity of Mary on the 8th of this month, they will begin their journey down to the valleys in a centuries-old cattle drive known as the Almabtrieb. The feast day, also called Our Lady of the Grape Harvest, for vintners are now beginning to harvest grapes and make wine, is also known as Drive Down Day, and the driving down is done with great ceremony as the cows are decorated with flowers and greenery and beautifully woven textiles and yes, there is a symphony of bells as they walk and lumber their way alongside their humans down the roads, down to their winter quarters in the farms and villages of the valleys.

Seth and I were in the Swiss Alps in 2019. Not for Drive Down Day––we were passing through in July, in the Alpine grass-grazing season of high summer, on our way from Austria to Lake Como in Italy. Seth was at the wheel and at one point he made a right turn off the main road and me, I thought we were stopping for ice cream, but no, he kept driving into the woods and suddenly we were ascending up and up and there we were, driving along a switchback two-lane road up into the mountains. We were on the Splügenpass. (That’s what it’s called on the German speaking side of Switzerland, and as you descend down toward the Italian speaking side, it’s called the Passo del Spluga.) I had no idea this would be happening, and instead of ice cream, I got to enjoy the most spectacular vistas. Every now and then, we had to pull over and stop and just take it all in. And what enchanted me most was the sound of bells. Each bell came from a single cow, grazing the green mountain meadow grass. A beautiful sound in complete harmony with the mountain we stood upon. I could listen to Swiss cows grazing all day long and never grow tired of it.

All this to say: Now it is September, and here is your Convivio Book of Days calendar for the month. It is, as usual, a printable PDF that you may print out and pin to your bulletin board or stick to your refrigerator or prop up on your desk, or just keep it handy digitally. It’s a fine companion to this blog and will give you more holidays than I will have time to write about… but even if I don’t write about them, you might find something about each of them if you do a search for each particular day on the blog page. Cover star this month: one of those lovely cows, dressed to the nines, at rest in a grassy field on Drive Down Day. Aside from Almabtrieb beginning on the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, it’s also the month of several important holidays in the Jewish calendar, and of Johnny Appleseed’s birthday (his 249th!), as well as Letterpress Appreciation Day on 9/18 and, of course, the autumnal equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere. CLICK HERE for the calendar.

Thanks to all who came to shop at the Wayzgoose last Sunday at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts. Now, pop-up market season is beginning in earnest! Here are a few of the markets we plan to attend in the coming months:

OKTOBERFEST MIAMI at the German American Social Club west of Miami. Two weekends: Friday October 13 through Sunday October 15 and then again the following weekend: Friday October 20 through Sunday October 22.

DIA DE LOS MUERTOS LAKE WORTH BEACH at our hometown community art center, Hatch 1121, just west of the tracks between Lucerne Avenue and Lake Avenue (just west of City Hall). Saturday October 28 from 3 to 9 PM.

FLORIDA DAY OF THE DEAD in Downtown Fort Lauderdale on Saturday November 4. The Convivio Bookworks tent is usually at the gathering point for the procession, which is Huzienga Plaza (or Bubier Park), 32 East Las Olas Boulevard. Details still to come, but we are usually there from about 3:00 until the procession leaves to cross the New River.

You may also expect to find us at the German American Social Club’s Christmas Market in Miami on Saturday December 2, the Sankta Lucia Julmarknad in Boca Raton also on Saturday December 2, and the American German Club in suburban Lake Worth for their Krampusnacht celebration on Friday night, December 8, followed by their Christkindlmarkt on Saturday & Sunday, December 9 & 10…. and perhaps more than this.


Image: A cow dressed up for Almabtrieb, photographed by Evelyscher, 2014. [Creative Commons] via Wikimedia Commons.