Hollantide, and your November Book of Days

We have been, since Halloween, in the midst of a span of time known as Hollantide. It is a time when we traditionally remember our dead. All Hallows (All Saints Day) is what gives the span its name––Hollantide being but a corruption of the word Hallowtide. All Hallows is what names the season and what names Halloween, of course: All Hallow’s Eve. Halloween ushers in All Saints Day which ushers in All Souls Day, which brings us the surreal beauty of Dia de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead. These are the days known in Italy simply as I Morti: The Dead. This is Hollantide at its core: the time of the sacred, the time of the holy, days of remembrance that continue through to Martinmas, which comes on Sunday, the 11th of November.

St. Martin of Tours, who we celebrate on Martinmas, was a Roman military veteran (and we’ll talk of veterans later, for his day also brings Veterans Day) in the fourth century who opted to take up Christian pacifism and is known best for helping a poor, drunken man on a cold winter’s day by tearing his own cloak in two so that the poor fellow could have something to keep him warm. St. Martin has since become a patron saint of tailors, vineyard keepers, winemakers, and drinkers.

What makes Martinmas the bookend to Halloween? The connection may have something to do with the Celtic New Year––Samhain––which, over the centuries, evolved into our Halloween. Samhain marks, as well, in traditional reckoning of time, the transition to winter. With all of these November days since Samhain, since Halloween, our thoughts have gone deeper below the earth, just as the natural world also shifts its energy below the earth. Winter leads us there. Persephone leads us there. The trees take us there: The leaves have flown, all growth now is below, in the roots. This makes for stronger growth above ground come spring and summer: balance. As above, so below. Oh and guess what? November 11 is the old style date of Samhain. And here we are, then, at Martinmas.

It is, as well, Veteran’s Day, when we honor in the United States all who have served in the military. We used to call it Armistice Day, for it originally marked the signing of the armistice that ended the Great War, which is what we used to call World War I before World War II came to be. The armistice that brought peace after years of senseless fighting was signed in 1918 on Martinmas, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month––100 years ago this Sunday, in fact.

So much associated with this day. One more thing: Martinmas is, traditionally, the time to taste the new wine, a fact certainly related to St. Martin’s patronage of winemakers and vineyard keepers. Each year’s Beaujolais Nouveau wines of France, always young wines, are typically released on or around Martinmas, and the day is often accompanied by a good meal featuring roast goose or turkey and chestnuts––typical harvest celebration foods––and, in Italy, Biscotti di San Martino: biscotti that are so hard, the only way to eat them, really, is to first dunk them in wine. My grandparents, all of them immigrants to the US from Italy, all made wine. My father was glad to get married and leave the winemaking that went on in his family home behind… but he married my mother, and her family made wine each autumn, too. The barrels that had to be cleaned out with water and chains, the crates of Zinfandel grapes that had to be washed and crushed… it was hard work, and I wish I could have been part of it. Winemaking is knowledge that has passed by the wayside in my family, drifted away. But certainly San Martino was important to all of my grandparents and to their wine. Grandpa made the wine, but Grandma made the cutte from the same must, the same grape juice, boiled down on the kitchen stove, reduced to a thick syrup, so specific to Lucera, her small Italian city, used in desserts specific, too, to autumn and winter, some of which are full of meaning, too, as we remember those who have passed. Like cicce cutte, a penitential dessert eaten during these Hollantide days and known practically no where else but Lucera: cooked wheat berries with chocolate, chopped almonds, pomegranate, and spices like cloves and cinnamon, and poured over the concoction? That same syrup made during the winemaking. The pomegranate certainly a direct connexion to the story of Persephone, who must go beneath the earth for the winter.

In all the hustle and hubbub of Halloween and Dia de Muertos, it took a while to get to making your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for November… but it’s here now! Our monthly gift to you is a printable PDF; this month’s edition is available right here.

 

COME SEE US!
Harvest Makers Marketplace
Sunday November 11 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 and Mexico and our full line of Shaker herbs & teas and more. Plus there’s live music all day: Rio Peterson from 10 AM to 1 PM, Ella Herrera from 1 to 4 PM. It’s going to be a good one!

 

A Halloween Invitation

Here comes Halloween! It’s a favorite celebration in this house, perhaps emanating from a love of pumpkins and apples and celebrations by dark of night. My interest in Halloween lies in its old traditions. In some places, for instance, it was known as Nutcrack Night, for it was a night for roasting nuts and using them to predict the future. Halloween has long been associated with conjuring and magic, perhaps because of its connexions with things of mystery. Its purpose as All Hallow’s Eve is to usher in the Days of the Dead that follow: All Hallows or All Saints Day on the First of November; All Souls Day on the Second. We keep the dead in mind especially at this time of year, clear through to Martinmas on November 11th.

One of the best things about Halloween, I think, is that everything is turned topsy turvy. The kids are out at night, ringing the doorbells of strangers, begging for treats. We wear costumes and masks so others don’t necessarily know our identities. And we carve lanterns out of pumpkins. How wonderful is that? That’s an old Celtic tradition, though back then and there in Ireland it was turnips that were carved. When the Irish began coming to America, pumpkins presented a great big orange glowing alternative. We’ve not gone back since.

Each year for Halloween for, oh… many many years now, I’ve written a gently ghostly story and sent it out to the world via email. It’s the Convivio Dispatch for Halloween. This year’s Halloween Dispatch will go out tonight to subscribers of the Convivio Dispatch, which is a different animal from this blog. If you’d like to make sure you receive the Halloween Dispatch, please subscribe right here. And if you’d rather get just tonight’s Halloween Dispatch without subscribing, let me know in the comments below. Leave your email address and I’ll send it. Or email me directly at mail@conviviobookworks.com to say you’d like the story. But don’t be afraid to subscribe… those particular emails from me are very few and far between, and you’ll meet an interesting cast of characters from our home town of Lake Worth.

Have a fine Halloween, filled with good spirit.
John

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

Real Mail Thursdays: Dia de Muertos Social
Thursday November 1 from 2 to 6 PM
Jaffe Center for Book Arts at Florida Atlantic University’s Wimberly Library
Boca Raton
We’ll have a mini pop-up shop of traditional handmade goods for Day of the Dead made by our artisan friends in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Florida Day of the Dead Celebration
Friday November 2 from 4 to 11 PM
Downtown Fort Lauderdale
We’ll be in the Craft Crypt at Huzienga Park on East Las Olas in our own tent with a pop-up shop of traditional Mexican handicrafts for Dia de los Muertos from 4 to 7:30 PM.

Dia de los Muertos Lake Worth
Saturday November 3 from 3 to 10 PM
Hatch 1121 and Downtown Lake Worth, west of Dixie Highway
Our favorite! Find us in the courtyard at Hatch with a pop-up shop of traditional Mexican handicrafts for Dia de los Muertos, Christmas, and everyday. We’ll be there for the full length of the celebration.

Harvest Makers Marketplace
Sunday November 11 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 and Mexico and our full line of Shaker herbs & teas and more. Plus there’s live music all day: Rio Peterson from 10 AM to 1 PM, Ella Herrera from 1 to 4 PM. It’s going to be a good one!

 

Image: One of last year’s Jack O’Lanterns, on the front porch. This one is by Seth. It’s got his trademark toothless smile.

 

Time for a New Toothbrush

There is an old Jewish tradition of leaving rocks on gravestones––I think to mark your visit. Seth and I left these two stones at the marker of my family’s plot in Westbury, New York, on Wednesday. It’s our first visit since my dad died in February, 2017. It was strange and sad at first, to sit there in the grass atop my father’s resting place. The cemetery was our first stop once we landed in New York, but then we got ourselves up, got a bite to eat at a diner where the chowder is Manhattan style (red, tomato based), and afterward we went to a garden center and picked up a small trowel and two celiosa plants blooming purple flowers and we returned to the cemetery with a project: I planted the flowers, one on the side where my dad is buried and one on the side where my grandparents are buried, and Seth began cleaning the stone. We didn’t have much with us to do that, but there was water nearby and I offered the toothbrush out of my backpack and so Seth brushed the green algae off the black granite stone, brushed the letters, brushed the carved image of St. Anthony of Padua, and it was good to have these projects. Dad, Grandma, Grandpa––they all appreciated things clean and orderly, and so I know this simple act of cleaning and planting would be appreciated, even now. Afterward, we lay there in the grass a long time, Seth and me… and then we set those stones atop the gravestone, said our goodbyes, and headed off to visit my cousin in Brooklyn (Brook-a-leen, as my Italian grandparents would have pronounced it). Our trips are usually like this: visits to family and friends, living and dead.

The day before, I was at my mom’s house, mowing the lawn. I like this task. It is a job that reminds me of Dad, for it’s something we did together often. Many times this summer while I’ve been there tackling this job, riding the mower, thinking of Dad, a big wood stork would fly down from the heavens, land by the pond near the house, and there the bird would stand or sit, at the bank of the pond, under a tree, watching me. Large wading birds are not uncommon in the swampy lands near the family homestead, but to see a wood stork is rare. This one, though, he’s been coming around since July. We have our almost weekly visit together. If I get too close, the stork takes a few big steps away. He’s a good four feet tall, and so his stride is large. But I look at him lately and I wonder where he’s come from, and why he’s chosen to hang out at our pond. I’m glad he’s there.

But that’s back home in Florida, which is not where we are now. Your Convivio Boys are on an autumnal jaunt, and if you know us, you know jaunts are not something we do often. First stop is New York, for just a few days, then onward to Maine. I’ll write when I can.