Roses, Light, the Midst of Advent

And now we are midway through Advent, well into December, closer and closer to the Midwinter Solstice and all the holy days of light that revolve around it: Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa. In Latin America, it is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, sacred to all the countries of Latin America, but most especially to Mexico. Her day comes on the 12th of December. The 13th will bring St. Lucy’s Day: the Feast of Santa Lucia in Italy (where Lucia is pronounced loo-chee-a) and Sankta Lucia in Sweden (where the C is soft: loo-see-a). So much beauty in these two days and nights.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is important to us in this house for perhaps an odd reason: she is, in her way, responsible for what Convivio Bookworks has become. This has to do with the very first December that Seth and I spent in our little old house in Lake Worth, in this town that has such a large Mexican and Mayan population. We were at the table, eating dinner that 12th of December in 2000, when suddenly we heard fireworks exploding overhead. I knew what day it was, and there was, I decided, only one explanation: there was a festival going on downtown celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe! We dropped everything and didn’t even bother to clean up or finish dinner but instead hopped into the truck and headed downtown for the festivities. We drove to Bryant Park on the lagoon, but it was silent, and so were the grounds of Sacred Heart Church, as was the plaza off the City Hall Annex and none of the downtown streets were blocked off, either, for this wonderful festival that we had concocted in our own minds.

I had left the house that night all excited for the singing and dancing and for the food but also to run into the street vendor who would be selling the traditional painted tin ornaments from Mexico that I’d been longing for… but of course there was no festival and there were no ornaments. Nothing. The fireworks probably were shot from the street outside the home of one very enthusiastic family. So Seth and I drove back home, disappointed.

But that night, with all its excitement and disappointment, was a seed that eventually bloomed into what we do now, for I decided that if I couldn’t find the traditional painted tin ornaments I wanted locally, I’d go out and find them where they came from. And that maybe other folks would want them, too. And so that Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the 12th of December at the tail end of the last century had a big effect on bringing you the Convivio Book of Days Catalog, where we sell authentic traditional handicrafts pertaining to the seasonal round of the year, which evolved eventually into this blog. And still I am diligently working on the next logical step: a real book called The Convivio Book of Days that you can pull off your bookshelf to confer with when you wish, like an old friend. (Guess what? The book proposal is just about done!) And so if you love this Book of Days, you can thank Our Lady of Guadalupe.

As for Our Lady, as the story goes, in 1531, a fellow named Juan Diego was on a hill near Mexico City and there he saw an apparition of a woman. She asked him to build a church in her honor there on the hill. She spoke to him in his native Nahuatl language and he recognized her, by the things she told him, as the Virgin Mary.

The iconic image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that we know so well miraculously appeared inside Juan Diego’s cloak on the 12th of December, 1531: on one of his visits to the hill, Mary told Juan Diego to go to the barren top of the hill, but when he got there, he found it not at all barren but awash with blooming roses. He and Mary gathered the roses and she arranged them inside his cloak. And on this, her feast day, Juan Diego opened his cloak before the bishop of Mexico City. When he did, the flowers all fell to the floor, revealing the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The bishop took it as a sign. The church was built, and the image from Juan Diego’s cloak, or tilma, hangs still inside the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Tepeyac Hill, Mexico City.

As our story goes, I imagine that next morning after the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe we probably ate lussekatter for breakfast, for while we have a lot of Mexicans and Mayans here in Lake Worth, we also have a lot of Finns, and the bakeries that keep the Finns happy generally make baked goods that relate to their Scandinavian neighbors, too… so when it is near the Feast of Sankta Lucia, they make lussekatter: saffron buns in the shape of an S, made each year for Sankta Lucia’s Day. Where the traditions are held onto tightly, it will be the eldest daughter of the family who comes around to all the bedrooms of the home, dressed in white and a sash of red, a wreath of candles on her head illuminating the predawn darkness. Her gift is coffee and lussekatter. And light: the light emanating from the crown of her head. It pierces the midwinter darkness. Lucia’s story, I feel, deserves more breadth and time… and so please tune in tomorrow to this blog, so I can share with you more of this beautiful night. But do, for sure, get yourself some lussekatter first, should you be lucky enough to be near a Scandinavian bakery.

Image: Handmade glass ornaments made by artisans in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The artisans make the ornaments in three designs and we carry them in our online shop. One set features calaveras, another set features Frida Kahlo images, and this set features images of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Christkindlmarkt last weekend was so much fun! Thanks to all who came by. And now this coming weekend brings our final four pop up shops before Christmas arrives. Local friends: we hope to see you… “Yule” love what we have at each of these markets!

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 herbal teas and more. They’re serving bottomless mimosas!


2 thoughts on “Roses, Light, the Midst of Advent

  1. Jerri says:

    I have bought a few tin ornaments from your catalogue, and am looking forward to the book’s release! So glad that those fireworks inspired you.

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