Category Archives: Nativity of Mary

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.


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].



Driving Down, or Your September Book of Days

I’ve put on my overalls and my hat made from sabal palm fronds: September is here and it’s planting time in Lake Worth. Mind you, this is not why your newest Convivio Book of Days calendar is late. It’s late for a number of reasons. Be that as it may, here it is: your Convivio Book of Days calendar for September. Cover star this month: Swiss chard and okra from the summer garden.

Summer is not the time of year we’re supposed to be growing vegetables here in South Florida. It’s a topsy-turvy place in many ways compared to the rest of the country (no laughing, please) and gardening is one of them. We plant in September, harvest all winter long. But come May, conventional wisdom says we lay down the hoe and take a break. But it’s been a strange year, to say the least, and Seth and I, we figured if we’re going to be spending so much time at home, anyway, we may as well plant an experimental summer garden and tend to it best we can. Some crops were an utter and complete failure within a few weeks of sowing seeds: squashes, cucumbers, pole beans, celery. Others, however, well… let’s just say the okra is thriving, as are the beets and the rocket and that Swiss chard. Swiss chard, of all things! How can something so alpine-sounding do so well in the heat and humidity of a Florida summer? Things botanical will always amaze me. And I couldn’t be more pleased: I love Swiss chard. I cook it up like my mom and grandma did (and probably their moms and grandmas): chopped and boiled up in a bit of garlicky tomato, olive oil drizzled on top, seasoned with salt and pepper. Serve it up with some crusty bread, and you have a meal fit for royalty (certainly of the alpine variety).

Speaking of alpine things, it is Drive Down Day today, this 8th of September, in Switzerland and Austria: it is the Feast of the Nativity of Mary and this is traditionally the day that the sheep and cows are driven back from their summer grazing in the mountain meadows to their winter quarters in the valleys below––another sign of summer’s waning. This is done with great pomp and celebration, the animals all adorned in flowers and bells. Across the border in Italy the folks like to eat blueberries today: blue, the traditional color of Mary’s cloak, at least in Italian Renaissance paintings. Lights are illuminated in windows, and bonfires blaze. In France, Mary is celebrated today, in the midst of the grapes ripening on the vine, as Our Lady of the Grape Harvest. Bunches of grapes are brought to churches for the priests to bless and you’ll find lots of grapes this day in the hands of statues of Mary, placed there by Marian devotees and by lovers of wine and by traditionalists like me.

In this house, though it’s not traditional, but because there is so much of it, the day will certainly involve Swiss chard. I can tell you there’s nothing in the world like opening the garden gate, gathering an armful of chard, and cooking it up for lunch. A great sense of accomplishment and self sufficiency accompanies the meal, making it even more delicious. Plus it is a great portal to memory. I think of Grandpa, who always kept a garden each summer, and I think of Grandma, who cooked the harvest with Mom, and I think as well of Maria, the farmer on Franklin Avenue near our home, an old woman from Italy with rough weathered hands. We would enter her dark wooden farm stand on the driveway, Mom and me. If I remember right, the stand was painted green. Mom would gather what she wanted, and sooner or later, Maria would walk down from the house or the fields to chat as she wrapped Mom’s purchases in newspaper and jute twine. Grandpa just grew the essentials: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, flat leaf parsley, rocket. But Maria: she grew the Swiss chard.

This is September, the first of the “Ember” months, as I like to call them. Seth and I, we wish you a fine one.

Beautiful Protective Face Masks from Chiapas

We’re so excited about these new additions to our Convivio by Mail catalog: protective face masks, in all sorts of beautiful embroidered patterns, made for us by an extended artisan family in Chiapas. When their traditional source of income––tourism to Mexico––dried up this past spring, things were looking bleak. But the patriarch of the family came up with the idea of devoting their skills toward making masks, and we’re really pleased to say that the family are now doing well and they are very busy making masks. They appreciate every order that comes in, and we are so pleased to help them get their wares out into the world. Visit our catalog and you’ll find the family’s embroidered masks in floral patterns, as well as other traditional Mexican designs: Calavera (above), Frida Kahlo, Maria Bonita, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sugar Skull, and Otomi-Inspired patterns. $16.50 each plus Free Domestic Shipping with discount code BESAFE. Bonus special when you purchase four masks: we’ll take an additional 20% off and ship your domestic order for free (no discount code necessary for that offer). International orders? Contact us and we will see what we can do for you: