In This Spirit of Thankfulness

It’s Thanksgiving. We gather, break bread together and remember all we are thankful for. That’s the day at its core. It had a rough go at first, Thanksgiving did, and almost didn’t make it this far through history. It was President George Washington who, in 1789, in his very first presidential proclamation, declared a day of national thanksgiving. But interest waned, as it sometimes does, and Thanksgiving became a mostly forgotten holiday until President Abraham Lincoln felt compelled to revive the tradition. When he did, he proclaimed the last Thursday of November, 1863, as our national day of Thanksgiving. It was something we needed as a nation, back in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War. And still we need it, in the midst of whatever it is we are going through now. Many seem to think it is ok to be rude and belittling and not civil toward each other, an example set before them by the highest office in the land. This is not something with which I agree. This is not the way things are supposed to be.

With Thanksgiving, we get a day to reflect and to take pause. To think about what is important to us. It could be nothing more than the pumpkin pie on your plate, and that’s ok. But it could also be all the people who are gathered around you at the table, and all the people who lift you up, rather than weigh you down, and all the things in life that bring you joy and peace and solace. For me, it also includes all of you who read this Book of Days and all who take time to comment and engage with it, and all the people we meet at pop up markets and all the people we never meet, but tell us things that sometimes make me so emotional, like this comment that came from a reader who, just a couple of weeks ago, ordered one of our vintage German Chimney Sweep ornaments. I made the chimney sweep our cover star for today (photo above), and here’s what our reader had to say, a few days after his order arrived in Virginia:

We received our order today and couldn’t be happier!!! Thank you so much. Just so you know why this is such a nice purchase for us. Me and my wife were both military brats and grew up overseas in Germany. We met in Berlin Germany, my wife has been looking for this type of ornament for some Time now, this is very similar to a Christmas ornament that her parents had when she was growing up. The chimney sweep ornament was her father’s and he always hung it last. Well this year my father-in-law passed away and my wife wanted to get this in remembrance of him and the traditions her family grew up with. I can’t tell you how much having this ornament will mean to her for the rest of our lives. She thinks her father may have gotten the ornament in east berlin when she was a child. Either way we will love and cherish it forever.

Stuff like this chokes me up, because I get it, I understand those feelings exactly. And so I am thankful that we get to be part of this journey with you, sometimes in these very strange ways. From Seth and me, to all of you: Happy Thanksgiving.

COME SEE US!
We’re popping up at quite a few local South Florida venues in the next few weeks!

City of Lake Worth Tree Lighting
Saturday November 30 from 6 to 9 PM
at the Cultural Plaza in Downtown Lake Worth, right behind the City Hall Annex
414 Lake Avenue in Lake Worth
This is not, at the time of this writing, a confirmed venue for us, but there’s a very good chance (let’s say… 85% likely) that we will be there in a tent on the plaza with a pop up shop of our Christmas artisan goods from Sweden, Mexico, and Germany, as well as traditional sparkly German advent calendars and advent candles, and a few of my mom’s famous candy wreaths. (And yes, our town was recently re-christened “Lake Worth Beach” by a slim margin in the last election… but I’ve not yet been able to bring myself to utter a name that contains both “Lake” and “Beach.” But you know where to find the tree lighting and us, should we be there in our tent, this Saturday evening: Good old Downtown Lake Worth, right behind the beautiful City Hall Annex and across from the Library.)

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!

Christkindlmarkt
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 we’ll throw in some other handmade items from our Swedish and Mexican collections, too, as well as Shaker herbs & teas, some letterpress goods, 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!

 

Sts. Clem & Cecilia

And now, on the approach to Thanksgiving, comes St. Cecilia’s Day and St. Clement’s Day. Cecilia is celebrated on the 22nd of November; she is a patron saint of music and musicians. Old Clem is celebrated on the 23rd; he is a patron saint of blacksmiths and metal workers.

Come, all you Vulcans, strong and stout,
Unto St Clem I pray turn out;
For now St Clem’s going round the town:
His coach and six goes merrily round.

It was a time to go “Clementing” in ages past: like trick or treating, only on the 23rd of November. Kids would knock on doors, hoping for treats in exchange for singing rhymes like this one:

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.
You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

There is an old, mostly forgotten tradition of New York in which kids would go door to door at Thanksgiving. My mom remembers doing this when she was a girl. I often wonder if there is some connexion between this and the Clementing of November 2, especially since, some years, Thanksgiving falls on St. Clement’s Day. Be that as it may, we don’t see much of either tradition these days (and some of us are still eating our Halloween candy from trick or treating!).

St. Cecilia’s Day on the 22nd is, of course, a fine day for music. And it is a traditional day for music: concerts in honor of St. Cecilia’s Day are known to have been performed since at least 1570 in France. Here in our home, we’ll soon be dusting off some music for the Advent season, that time of preparation before Christmas. St. Cecilia each year reminds us that it is time to do this.

It is, by the way, a good time to order Advent candles and calendars from our Convivio Book of Days Catalog! Especially if you feel a bit rushed by Christmas, even before Thanksgiving has come. A simple thing like an Advent candle that you light each night or an Advent calendar that you open a door on each day can really help bring some perspective to things. Ours are the traditional kinds, made in Europe, where these traditions began, and it’s all part of what we call the Slow Christmas Movement. And we offer free domestic shipping when you spend $50!

 

COME SEE US!
We’re popping up at quite a few local South Florida venues in the next few weeks!

Sankta Lucia Festival & Julbasar (Christmas Bazaar)
Saturday November 23 from 11 AM to 3 PM
at First United Methodist Church
625 NE Mizner Boulevard in Boca Raton
Our pop-up shop will focus on traditional European advent calendars and advent candles, plus handmade Christmas ornaments and decorations from Sweden, and my mom’s famous candy wreaths. It’s a beautiful event, complete with a Lucia with a wreath of candles on her head! Brought to you by SWEA, the Swedish Women’s Educational Association.

Harvest Makers Marketplace
Sunday November 24 from 10 AM to 4 PM
at Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Road in Boca Raton
We’ll be transitioning toward Christmas with a pop-up shop of traditional German advent calendars and advent candles from England, plus handmade 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: Rio Peterson from 10 to 1 and those three amazing triplets, The Lubben Brothers, from 1:30 to 4 PM. It’s going to be a good one! Look for the blue & white MAKERS MARKETPLACE signs on FAU campus roads.

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!

Christkindlmarkt
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 Lake Worth
Convivio Bookworks will be part of this old time German Christmas market in suburban Lake Worth. At our booth you’ll find traditional handmade German Christmas items, and we’ll throw in some other handmade items from our Swedish and Mexican collections, too, as well as Shaker herbs & teas, some letterpress goods, 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 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!

 

Image: St. Cecilia by Guido Reni. Oil on canvas, 1606. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

Hollantide & Martinmas

Seth and I and our nephew descended upon my family home this past Saturday to visit my mom and sister for a Family Work Day. There were weeds to pull and lawns needing autumn fertilizer and there were rotted boards to replace and all manner of things to do, things that had been piling up for months. Mom, while we all did these things, cooked. She made us eggplant parmigiana for lunch… and she had a pot of mosto cotto brewing on the stove. U cutto we call it in our Lucerine dialect: “oo coot-oh.” It is a syrupy concoction that we use in all sorts of sweets at the end of the year. It’ll show up in Christmas cookies, and it made an appearance at All Souls Day in a dessert distinct to my grandparents’ region of Puglia that is made just for that night. My grandparents used to pour it over freshly fallen snow as a treat for the kids. It is, at its most basic, what’s left of the grape must after winemaking, boiled down with sugar to a reduction. It takes all day to cook, filling every corner of the house with its aroma, and it is prized by my people, its own sort of black gold.

U cutto would traditionally be made around the Nativity of Mary, which was in September, or around Martinmas, which is today. My mom wasn’t even thinking about that, though: it was just time to make it. It’s autumn, and her thoughts have begun shifting to holiday preparations, and making u cutto is a big preparation, and a time-consuming one. I suspect her making it yesterday was more instinctual than anything else: it is November, and this is what we do in November… a culinary tradition handed down from time immemorial.

Martinmas has a lot to do with wine, for it is time for the first tasting of the wine that was put up to ferment in September. It’s also when the young new Beaujolais wines of France are released. This has to do with timing and with St. Martin of Tours, who lends his name to Martinmas, 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 very hard biscotti, some of which are baked not just twice 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.

In the parts of Europe that most thoroughly celebrate St. Martin’s Day, it is often a time of warmer weather, the last bit of it before the full onset of winter. Kind of like Indian Summer in America, it’s known in Italy, for instance, as l’estate di San Martino (St. Martin’s Summer). But this mild weather tends to be fleeting. Colder nights lie ahead and with Martinmas we find ourselves, by traditional reckoning of time, at the natural start of winter. It is, until Yuletide, a time of increasing darkness. The living world continues its process of shutting down and receding into itself: going underground. Trees are no longer growing above, but roots below the surface still are growing. And so the connexions are strong, these darkening days, between the world of the living and the underworld of the dead.

Of course we honored these days of the dead at the start of the month with Halloween 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 Halloween is a corruption of the words All Hallow’s Eve, so is Hollandtide, which comes from Hallowtide: the time of the sacred, the holy––those who have gone before. Many of our contemporary Halloween 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.

Finally, it is, of course Veterans Day, when we honor all who have served in the military. The day was formerly known as Armistice Day, for it was on Martinmas in 1918 that the treaty ending what would later be known as World War I was signed. The day is known as Remembrance Day in many places, but here in the US, Veterans Day became the day’s official name in 1954.

St. Martin also was a veteran. He served in the Roman army, until his conversion to Christianity and to pacifism, for which he was imprisoned. Upon his release, he went to France and founded a monastery. The best known legend about good St. Martin is his happening upon a shivering drunken man on a cold winter’s day. Martin tore his own cloak in two and gave one half to the drunken man to warm him. The legend makes St. Martin a patron saint not just of winemakers, but also those who love wine (including those who love it too much).

And so we continue turning inward at this time of year, gathering in, preparing for winter. What’s a good way to mark this Martinmas evening? Certainly with wine. Light a fire while you’re at it. The Celts would have lit huge bonfires on Samhain to welcome in the new year, and in our case, a small celebration involving a fire in the hearth or in the fire pit in the back yard is just as good, made even better with mulled wine and good company. Good St. Martin himself would have it no other way… especially if the year’s new cutto––the mosto cotto––is already brewed and bottled and being kept cool in the fridge. Our time of Christmas preparation lies ahead. For now we pause and delight in the small things of this earth.

Images: At top, Cici Cutto (pronounced “chee-chee coot-oh”), the traditional dessert for I Morti, or All Souls Night, that comes from my grandparents’ city of Lucera in Italy. It is a strange concoction of cooked whole wheat berries, pomegranate, chopped toasted almonds, and chopped chocolate. U cutto, infused with cloves and cinnamon, is poured over it. Second photo: Mamma’s pot of u cutto simmering on the stove last Saturday; it’s now packed in jars in the refrigerator, ready for use. She makes it just once each year.

 

COME SEE US!
We’re popping up at quite a few local South Florida venues in November & December!

Sankta Lucia Festival & Julbasar (Christmas Bazaar)
Saturday November 23 from 11 AM to 3 PM
First United Methodist Church
625 NE Mizner Boulevard in Boca Raton
Our pop-up shop will focus on traditional European advent calendars and advent candles, plus handmade Christmas ornaments and decorations from Sweden, as well as our full line of Shaker herbs & teas and more (like my mom’s famous candy wreaths). It’s a beautiful event, complete with a Lucia with a wreath of candles on her head! Brought to you by SWEA, the Swedish Women’s Educational Association.

Harvest Makers Marketplace
Sunday November 24 from 10 AM to 4 PM
Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton
We’ll be transitioning toward Christmas with a pop-up shop of traditional German advent calendars and advent candles from England, plus handmade 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: The Lubben Brothers from 11 AM to 1 PM, Rio Peterson from 1 to 4 PM. It’s going to be a good one!

Christkindlmarkt
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 Lake Worth
Convivio Bookworks will be part of this old time German Christmas market in suburban Lake Worth. At our booth you’ll find traditional handmade German Christmas items, and we’ll throw in some other handmade items from our Swedish and Mexican collections, too, as well as Shaker herbs & teas, some letterpress goods, and my mom’s famous handmade candy wreaths.

More markets to come beyond this, too!