Category Archives: The Gift Bearers

God Jul, or Your December Book of Days

And now it is December, and here is your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for the month. It is a month of darkness here in the Northern Hemisphere and yet we dispel the darkness with celebrations of light: from the ever increasing light each Sunday in our ring of Advent candles, to the lights that illuminate the eight nights of Chanukah, to the candles on the wreath worn by Sankta Lucia in Sweden, and of course all the lights of Christmas. The lights are powerful beacons of hope in dark times. And this we welcome gladly.

And this First Sunday of December brings the First Sunday of Advent. Advent runs late this year: the Fourth Sunday of Advent happens to be the same day as Christmas Eve. This is a calendrical event that can put occasional procrastinators like me on edge. There have been years where the Fourth Sunday of Advent arrives and I’ve not even begun my Christmas shopping, but it’s all right because Christmas is still the better part of a week away. Not so when the Fourth Sunday of Advent falls on the same day as Christmas Eve. If you, too, are in the Procrastination Boat, keep this in mind and make plans now to do things right this year.

But more than a signal to shop, Advent is a time of preparation, a time, as the French Advent song goes, to make our homes as fair as we are able. And not just our dwellings but our hearts, as well. Tonight, on the Advent wreath of four candles, we will light the first candle: one purple candle, representing Hope. On the Second Sunday of Advent, two purple candles are illuminated: the original one and a new one, representing Peace. On the Third Sunday of Advent we add to those a rose candle, symbolizing Joy (hence the name for the day, Gaudete Sunday). And on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, a third purple candle is illuminated, as well, this one representing Love. With all four candles illuminated the Advent wreath shines brightest, just as the longest, darkest nights of the year are upon us. It is powerful symbolism and a reminder of how it is up to each of us to be a light bearer in times of darkness, through hope, through joy, through peace and love.

Advent is the beginning of the church year. It has another meaning, too: Arrival. And even if your Christmas celebration is a purely secular one, Advent has its place: this hope and peace and joy and love help us set the stage for the abundance that is Christmas. And so we circle around to Advent––which used to begin on the 12th of November, the day after Martinmas and our annual time of remembering the dead––bringing us this time of preparation, for before we can properly understand the joy and celebration of Christmas, it is helpful to acknowledge our need to feel those things, lest Christmas come off as too cloying, too sweet. And so we acknowledge the darkness, and understand that the light that pierces the darkness comes from within. Hide not your light under a bushel. And so it is a time, as well, to make amends, and to right wrongs.

Image: A Christmas card from Sweden, designed by Adèle Söderberg. Color lithography, early 20th century (pre-1916) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.



Right now at our online shop you can save $10 on an $85 purchase on everything in the store with code SLOWCHRISTMAS at checkout, plus earn free domestic shipping, too.



Friday December 8, Lake Worth
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.

Saturday & Sunday, December 9 & 10, 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.

20 + C + M + B + 23

It is Epiphany today, this Sixth of January, the day the Magi are said to have arrived at the stable in Bethlehem to see the newborn child. We’ve had six days of Christmas in the old year and now, six in the new. With Epiphany, the Twelve Days of Christmas come to a close, and we won’t see them again until next December, when this new year is old. Thus one year connects to the next through the bridge that is Christmas.

Many of you will be taking out the Christmas tree this weekend, and some of you have already packed everything away. As for us in this house, we follow the old tradition of keeping the Yuletide season going through January, to Candlemas Eve. Not “Full Christmas,” mind you –– the Santas and other such decorations will soon wend their ways into the closet ’til next Christmas. But we’ll keep the candles burning and we’ll keep the carols playing and we’ll keep the tree inside and illuminated as long as it stays supple and watered. It is just getting to the point of smelling wonderful and we are too much in love with Christmas to send it on its way just now. Candlemas Eve presents a more logical transition, anyway. At that point, the Wheel of the Year clicks another notch, away from Midwinter and toward the first stirrings of Spring as February brings Candlemas and Groundhog Day and St. Brigid’s Day: Brigid, the Bridge from winter to spring.

This is all to say that we welcome you to join us in keeping Yuletide going in your home, too, if you’ve not yet had enough of it. There is good historical and traditional precedent to doing so. Ah, but here is another thing we’ll be doing this Epiphany: inscribing the lintel above our door, in chalk, with an Epiphany blessing: a combination of the year with the initials of the three Magi (C for Caspar, M for Melchior, B for Balthasar), punctuated by crosses. We’ll do this here at our home, and we’ll do it at the family home, too, when next we are there. All who are gathered will take turns writing the inscription on the lintel above the door. This year’s will read 20+C+M+B+23.

Each year, my silent prayer outside in the cold night air is that no one will be missing when we next gather to do this. There the inscription stays, all the year through if the weather be fine. And though Christmas be gone, still the inscription reminds us of Christmas’s presence as we pass each day through that portal. The inscription is a magic charm of sorts, protecting the house and those who pass through that doorway, harboring the goodwill and spirit of Old Father Christmas. It’s a tradition we’ve seen a great deal of evidence of in our travels through Austria and Germany and Switzerland.

Finally,  I stayed up very late last night working via the Internet with family near and far on recording and editing the newest episode of the Stay Awake Bedtime Stories series that I host for the Jaffe Center for Book Arts. I had told you about this in the previous post to this blog. Well, the video is done. In this newest episode, my cousin Marietta reads The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie de Paola, while her sister Cammie plays la Befana and Seth and my cousins Larry and Al play the Three Kings. I invite you now to Stay Awake with Marietta Falconieri & Family as Marietta tells the tale of Old Befana, who travels throughout Italy on the Eve of the Epiphany, as the Fifth of January becomes the Sixth. In fact, la Befana must be traveling through the sky right now, as I write this! Click here to watch.

And at our online shop, the Twelve Days Sale continues but it is over on Saturday. Find reduced prices on many of our handmade nutcrackers and pyramids and nativities from Germany, and on many of our Mexican nativity sets, too. It’s our first real sale (no discount code, just a proper sale) and once Saturday has passed, it’s back to regular prices, so if you’ve had your eye on something festive, perhaps for next Christmas… take a look: it may very be on sale right now. Click here to shop the sale.




On a Winter’s Night, or Your January Book of Days

A bit belated, here is your printable Convivio Book of Days Calendar for the month of January. Cover star: Winter Night in the Mountains, a 1914 oil painting by artist Harald Sohlberg. He was Norwegian; he knew a thing or two about winter. Me, I’m from Florida and all I know is it looks awfully wintry in his painting. We had a bit of cold weather on Christmas Day and the first few days of Christmas; enough to make the iguanas sleepy but it has warmed up again since then and the iguanas are back to eating all the plants in the garden, save for the weeds, of course. I was hoping, to be honest, that the cold would help thin the herd a bit, but this does not seem to be the case. What I am certain of is folks in Norway do not have this problem.

We are approaching the close of the Yuletide Season. It’s the Tenth Day of Christmas and our focus is on preparations for Twelfth Night and Epiphany. I plan to make our Three Kings Cakes on Friday (you’ll find the recipe here) but later today, my work is cut out for me as I record and edit my cousins performing a story for Epiphany Eve. It’s the story of La Befana, the kindly old witch who searches for the Christ Child each Epiphany and who delivers small presents to the children in Italy. The recording will be part of the Stay Awake Bedtime Stories series that I host and I’ve no idea yet how this will all turn out, but we shall see what we shall see and if you’d like to watch the finished video, please visit the Stay Awake page at the website of the Jaffe Center for Book Arts by Thursday evening and see what you think. My cousin Marietta will be reading, my cousin Cammie will be sweeping, and my cousins Larry and Al (as well as Seth) will be offering their gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh as the Three Kings. How bad can it be?

At our online catalog, we are running a sale on select artisan goods for Christmas from Germany and from Mexico. The sale runs through Epiphany on the Sixth Day of January. You’ll find savings on handmade German nutcrackers and pyramids and nativity sets, and handmade nativities from Mexico. Click here to shop (and save: our extra large nutcrackers, for instance, are currently reduced by $295; after Friday, they go back to regular price).

Image: “Winter Night in the Mountains” by Harald Sohlberg. Oil on canvas, 1914 [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons].