Category Archives: Book of Days Calendar

Something Sweet

St. Macarius’s Day

Could be lunch, could be dinner, could be hot dogs or the most elaborate meal ever… in my family, the words that someone always utters afterward are the same: “Have we got something sweet?” We are a dessert people. A demitasse of espresso and a little something sweet puts the proper finishing touch on any meal. Here at home, Seth is even known to partake in what he has dubbed Breakfast Dessert.

This Eighth Day of Christmas is given to such things as we remember St. Macarius of Egypt, who earlier in life was a confectioner in Alexandria. Truth be told, he was not much fun in his later years: He left his confectioners’ trade and he left Alexandria to live an ascetic lifestyle as a hermit in the desert, where his sustenance came from a simple diet of raw vegetables and, only on the most special days, a bit of bread dipped in olive oil. (I can picture my grandmother, holding up her thumb pressed against her index and middle fingers, begging him to just mangia something more than carrots.) Be that as it may, and as completely un-fun as Macarius the Hermit became, it is Macarius the Confectioner we remember most these days, and this is why he is a patron saint of cooks, confectioners, and pastry chefs. And for certain his is not the easiest name to pronounce; for this reason he has also been known over the ages as St. Macaroon (perhaps St. Macaron in France?)––fitting enough for a confectioner, I’d say. Anyway, his feast day, falling as it does within the extraordinary time of the Twelve Days of Christmas, has become a day for sweets.

But first, before we go further, today’s post comes with a gift: it’s the January edition of the ongoing Convivio Book of Days calendar. Click here for the PDF, printable on standard US letter size paper. Cover star this month: a burlap sack of chestnuts, imported from Italy, for the humble roasted chestnut plays such an important role in our midwinter celebrations this month. I imagine Macharius the Confectioner knew this, as well, all those centuries ago. Good things remain constant.

Now, back to our saint. There is a rather nice story attributed to St. Macarius, a story he is said to have told his fellow monks in the monastery, who were interested in leaving the desert for the city. (They claimed it would help them reach more souls with their message, but I suspect they may have been tired of eating carrots and radishes all the time.) Macarius responded with a parable. He spoke of a barber in a small town who earned a small but decent living by charging three coins for a shave. He earned enough this way to sustain himself and his family and to even save a little extra for his old age. But he heard a rumor that barbers in the nearby city were charging a lot more than three coins for the same service. He thought long and hard about this, and finally, he made the decision to sell all he had in the small town and move to the city and set up shop there, where he could earn a larger profit for his services. And so he did.

Sure enough, at the end of his first day in the city, he had earned more than he had ever earned in the small town, and the barber was quite elated. And after closing up shop, he headed for the market to buy food and provisions for his family, but he found that everything in the big city market was much more expensive than it had been in the small town. Indeed, he ended up with no money at all in his pocket that day––a trend that continued each day after. Finally, the barber decided it would be best to return to his native town, where at least he made a small amount of progress each day in his savings.

Macarius and his fellow monks stayed in the quiet solitude of the desert. And of course there is a lesson in this story for all of us: a lesson of quiet patience, the understanding that sometimes what is best for us is right where we are. Which maybe is a good lesson for us in our particular time, too, when we are urged to just stay home. If you’re going to, you may as well enjoy something sweet this Eighth Day of Christmas.


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Dispel the Night, or Your December Book of Days

And now it is December. The nights grow long, and dark. We are taught to fear the darkness, and yet such gorgeousness emerges from it: the twinkling of stars in the distant sky, and the sparkling lights that we toss upon trees and rooflines this time of year to call those stars down here on earth.

Symbolically, we counter the darkness in our ceremonies. Advent begins now with a single illuminated candle in a ring of four; by the Sunday before Christmas, all four candles will be lit. Hanukkah will soon come, too: eight nights, and again, more and more light as we go deeper through those dark nights. Sankta Lucia on the 13th and the brightly burning candles of Christmas Eve, that silent, holy night. Candlelight continues through the Twelve Days of Christmas that follow Christmas Day, and with each night of Kwanzaa, too: each candle representing a principle of heritage. Each candle adding its light to the sum of light.

In this spirit of light comes your Convivio Book of Days calendar for December. It is a printable PDF, and we welcome you to print it, pin it, keep it as a companion to this Book of Days blog. As the month goes on, I will be writing about most of the days listed on the calendar, and then some: each day that follows Christmas Day, for twelve days, has some particular traditional connexion to Christmas. I’ve not yet decided if I’ll be writing a new post each day, as I’ve done in the past, or if I’ll write about several days at a time, for less frequent posts. If any of you have input or suggestions, I’m open. I worry sometimes that twelve posts over twelve days is too much for many folks to take in, but I worry, too, that the significance of days gets forgotten when I write about so many at one time. Whichever way it goes, my wish remains the same: that we each will hide not our light.

Our big Christmas Stock-Up Sale continues at our online catalog. $10 off your purchase of $75 across the catalog, plus free domestic shipping. Or just good old free domestic shipping with your purchase of $50.


Blackbirds, or Your November Book of Days

Most every evening these days, Seth and I watch the blackbirds fly from west to east, from the mainland to the mangrove islands of the Lake Worth Lagoon. They do this in vast flocks, emerging from the western sky as far as the eye can see. Thousands and thousands of birds, moving both individually and as one great pull of life, not so unlike the massive school of fish that my neighbor Earl saw when he tells the story of the day he saw the Santa Margarita, the legendary Spanish galleon that sunk off our shores in the 1500s, from his boat above the surface of the Atlantic. As above, so below. While Earl’s fish were silent, the blackbirds flap and squawk. Yet both the fish and the birds move together in a great ballet as they ascend and descend in wondrous swoops. It’s an amazing thing to see.

And so the blackbirds are our guides these mysterious autumnal days, and they are our cover stars for the (finally!) published Convivio Book of Days calendar for November.

I won’t even bother to apologize for being so belated. When it’s on time, I like to think of the calendar as a companion to this blog. Well, ok… even when it’s late. It is a PDF document, printable on your home printer, on standard letter size paper. The photo for the month does not capture a vast blackbird flock, but rather a few stragglers that lighted above us on an Australian Pine, close to their nightly destination. The calendar comes to you in time for Martinmas this week, our point of closure to this annual time of remembering our beloved dead, and it comes to you in time for Thanksgiving later this month, and for Stir-Up Sunday, which leads us to the First Sunday of Advent at the end of November. Of course, that means that Christmas is not all that far away.

We love the anticipation of Advent as much as we do the joyous days that follow. And since typically at this time of year you’d find Convivio Bookworks locally at wonderful events like the Sankta Lucia Festival in Boca Raton that’s put on by the Swedish Women’s Educational Association, and the Christkindlmarkt at the American German Club in Lantana––events that are canceled this year––we’ve decided to shift our Autumn Stock-Up Sale to a Christmas Stock-Up Sale and instead, in a virtual way, bring these street fairs to you. Here’s the deal (and if you click the picture, you’ll make the visual larger):

So yes: at our catalog, take $10 off your purchase of $75 or more across our catalog, plus we’ll ship your domestic order for free. That’s a savings that totals $18.50, which is not too shabby. And there are so many fine things to choose from: traditional sparkly Advent calendars from Germany and handmade daily Advent candles from England to help mark daily the transition to Christmas; winter incense and traditional wooden artisan goods for Christmas from Germany and Sweden and Italy, including ornaments and incense burners and pyramids and nutcrackers (some vintage GDR!); sparkling painted tin ornaments and nativity sets from Mexico (one of them is a pop-up!), and our popular embroidered protective face masks from Chiapas (they make fine stocking stuffers); handmade soaps for Hanukkah and Christmas from our local soap maker Kelly Sullivan; fir balsam pillows that smell for all the world just like Christmas itself––they are from the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community in Maine, who also offer you bags of their homegrown culinary lavender and their full selection of herbal teas and culinary herbs; letterpress printed books and broadsides that we make here in our workshop… oh and how about a Day of the Dead themed nativity set handmade in Mexico (one of our most popular items ever)?

Take a look around our catalog and see if we can’t help fulfill some of the shopping on your list (while saving you a bit of cash, too). Your transactions translate into real support for a very small company AND for other small companies, real families, local friends and family, and as for the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community, well… they are the only remaining active Shaker Community anywhere, and America’s oldest religious community, established in 1783. All of the folks we work with are deserving of your support on this transactional basis, especially now, in strange, more challenging times. Companies like Amazon are enjoying record-breaking sales and profits right now… but it’s the little guys that are struggling to make ends meet. The small companies and artisans we work with appreciate every sale, like you wouldn’t believe. It’s just like voting. Purchasing what they make is your vote for them; it means you believe in what they do. Please consider supporting what we do so we can continue to support the artisans we know. And please take a look around at the small businesses in your area, too. Especially small family-run restaurants. They need your business to make it through to the other side of this.

My promise to you is to write Convivio Book of Days blog posts that describe, as best I can, the street fairs we’re missing this year, and we’ll keep that sale, with discount code STREETFAIR, going through the Christmas season, too.

Here’s a link to our catalog. Thank you for your support!