Oberon & Titania, or Your June Book of Days

June already! It is the month of the summer solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere: Our longest days and shortest nights, the start of summer by the almanac but by traditional reckoning of time it is the month of Old Midsummer, as our days increase in length up until the solstice and then already begin their descent down again once we pass that moment. It is a magical and mystical time, if the stories are true and the poets are right. And why wouldn’t they be? We are at the polar opposite side of the year from Midwinter and its particular potent magic. Our ancestors understood this, and so did the early Church: to Midwinter they assigned the birth of Christ, and to Midsummer, the birth of his cousin, John the Baptist, the one who prepared the way. And so we have Christmas in the bleak midwinter, and this month, at the height of summer, comes St. John’s Day. And just as we have charged Christmas Eve with magic, so have we charged St. John’s Eve. It just doesn’t get as much publicity. But Shakespeare knew of this magic; hence his Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Our cover stars for your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for June are Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies, in a painting by John Anster Fitzgerald. The calendar, as usual, is a printable PDF, and a fine companion to the blog (especially when I don’t have time to write to you). Click here for your June Book of Days.

A note, too, about last month’s calendar: I inadvertently listed Pentecost as happening on May 23. That was not at all true. In fact, Pentecost is just coming up in the coming days, on the Fifth of June. It’s a moveable holiday, and I completely messed it up this year. I promise to be more diligent in the future, and I am almost certain that every holiday listed on the June Book of Days is absolutely right. I do the best I can. Click here for a corrected version of the Convivio Book of Days Calendar for May.

Have a wonderful June. May some tangible aspect of Midsummer magic be yours.


Mother’s Day

Here’s a reprint of last year’s Convivio Book of Days essay for Mother’s Day. I found it so charming when I read it again this morning, I decided to reprise it, especially now that so many of you know my mom Millie so well through her hand-embroidered tea towels that we sell on the website. Happy Mother’s Day! –– John

I’m not very good at remembering important things, but I’m really good at remembering odd things, and often with astonishing clarity. Here’s a good example: it’s me, walking into the basement kitchen one afternoon when I was a kid and finding Mom there at the kitchen counter, making supper. I was watching Bugs Bunny cartoons on TV, and by power of suggestion, I wanted a carrot. Mom stopped what she was doing, pulled a carrot from the crisper drawer for me, washed and peeled it, handed it to me, then went back to preparing dinner. I stood there, munching on that carrot, watching Mom at work, when a very important question suddenly popped into my head. So, I asked it: “What are ice cream cones made from?” My mother did not even pause in her work; she just kept going, and she gave me her answer: “Ice cream cones? They’re made from crackers, Johnny.”

Her answer was delivered with so much certainty, I figured Millie Cutrone certainly knew what she was talking about. And so I did not question it and accepted that ice cream cones were made in some process whereby saltines are crushed and pressed into cones, cones that expectantly await my chocolate ice cream. It was years before I re-examined that answer and whether I believed it or not.

I don’t know that it’s my mom’s fault that she raised a gullible kid, and if that’s one of my worser faults, then so be it. She also raised me to write thank you notes for kindnesses bestowed and to wait until everyone was seated at the table for supper and to love holidays and the traditions that come with each, so if you like this Book of Days, you should probably write my mom a thank you note yourself. It was my mom and my grandma and my sister that really instilled in me a fascination with the kitchen and that, in its way, brings me to writing about these things now. I love sharing these things with you, because of all these people who loved sharing them with me.

And here we come to the late spring day each year when we remember and honor our mothers––those we were given, and those we have chosen. And, I’d argue, all the rest of them that helped raise us: the grandmothers and great-grandmothers, sisters and aunts. To all the moms in our lives, no matter where they are: We love you. Happy Mother’s Day.

Photo: That’s me and my mom. It’s a summer evening and I’m going to guess that I’m about 3 years old, so it might just be 1967. I’d like to tell you that it was around that time that I asked about how ice cream cones are made, but I suspect I was considerably older, perhaps 6 or 7 years old, when I fell for the crackers answer.

At the online shop, you’ll find my mom Millie as the cover star for the current HIGH FIVE SALE: Use discount code HIGH5 at checkout for $5 off your purchase of $35 or more… a sale we’ll run through at least Father’s Day in June, and who knows, maybe all summer long. That’s on everything in the shop: our own letterpress printed books and broadsides, genuine Shaker herbs and teas, all of our handmade artisan goods for all the seasons. Plus free domestic shipping when you reach $60. CLICK HERE to shop, and thank you for your support!


May Day, and Your May Book of Days

And now here is May. Walpurgis Night on the last night of April led us into May Day and Beltane. The conclusion of the Muslim month-long celebration of Ramadan just happened to coincide this year and now it is time to shift greetings from Ramadan Mubarak! to Eid Mubarak!, for now it is Eid, the Sweet Festival. As the month progresses, there will be more and more celebrations of spring and ultimately the spring to summer, for spring is fleeting and ephemeral.

Here now is your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for the month of May. It is our gift to you, a printable PDF, and as usual, an excellent companion to the blog. Cover star this month: a 1913 painting by Iso Rae called “Rogation Day Procession in Étaples” –– and there, in Rogation Sunday, you have another of the lesser known holidays this month. It is a month that’s full of days like this, which is all the more reason to check out the calendar. Happy May! Eid Mubarak! May the month bring many blessings.

Image from our May Book of Days cover star: “Rogation Day Procession in Étaples” by Iso Rae. Oil on canvas, 1913 [Public domain via Wikimedia Commons].