Category Archives: Book of Days Calendar

May Day, and Your May Book of Days

I like to picture the elliptical orbit of our planet around the sun as the very wheel of the year I so often talk about, and maybe that’s not so far-fetched: perhaps that is the very idea from which the the wheel originates. In this circle around the sun, we find ourselves today at the spoke of the wheel opposite where we were at Hallowe’en: there, we were halfway between autumnal equinox and midwinter solstice, and now here we are, halfway between the vernal equinox and the midsummer solstice. It is the cross quarter day known as Beltane, or, more popularly, May Day. It is a time we mostly ignore here in the States, and we are pretty good at that: ignoring sacred days. I am pretty certain it’s yet another loss we can pin on our country’s Puritan roots, for guess what? The Puritans hated May Day as much as they hated Christmas. May poles and floral nosegays, along with Christmas revelry and days of rest: all of these things were not for them. To make matters even worse, May Day in the past century became associated with labor and workers and (gasp) Communism!… so it became even further removed from the American vernacular.

As usual, I feel we are the poorer for this disconnect. May Day celebrates the height of spring, or even (by traditional reckoning of time) the start of summer. It is a time to be outdoors night and day, a time to bring wild blooms indoors (bringing in the May), a time to revel in an awakening earth. Where our thoughts and outlook at the opposite cross quarter day turned downward, beneath the earth, with May Day we emerge and focus our energies on things above the earth: we revel in greenery and flowers and we spend more time outdoors. We enter the gentle time of year, a time of brightness and light and long days in the Northern Hemisphere.

Your Convivio Book of Days calendar for May celebrates this, too. Cover star: a book illustration for May Day by Kate Greenaway, late 19th century. The calendar is a fine companion to this blog; it’s a printable PDF so you can print it and pin it to your bulletin board or stick it on the refrigerator, if you wish. Happy May!

 

Easter Triduum, or Your April Book of Days

April has begun. It begins, of course, with All Fools’ Day, April Fools. There is an old Welsh saying: If every fool wore a crown, we should all be kings. The tricks and practical jokes traditionally end at noon, but not everyone understands this and so I think it’s a good day to remain generally wary and on guard. The origins of this day are tough to pin down. There is a Norse god named Loki whose feast day is today, and Loki happens to be a trickster god. So that could be it. But there also is the fact that March 25 was once New Year’s Day, making the First of April the Octave of New Year and the end of the new year revels, and it is thought that perhaps the foolishness of the date goes back to very old new year customs.

Being the First of the month, it’s also time for the April edition of the ongoing Convivio Book of Days calendar. We offer it to you as a printable PDF. The calendar makes a fine companion to this blog. Enjoy it with our compliments.

This year, what begins as All Fools’ Day ends as Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, the night when we are invited to visit churches that will remain unlocked all night long, welcoming portals inviting us to be present with Jesus in his hours of tribulation as Good Friday approaches. Like last year, though, we will remain home, but typically it is a night when we visit three churches, as my grandmother Assunta taught us, though some people visit seven. I love this night, typically. It is such a bridge for me across time and space with the ones I love and the ones I miss, as I sit in the close and holy darkness of these quiet churches, meditating, praying, simply being. The moon is always present as I journey from church to church, a constant companion. This year, perhaps, a simple fire in the back yard may be the most appropriate way to mark the night. The moon will still be present, and where two or three are gathered… well, you know the story. But here ends the Lenten season, and here begins the Easter or Paschal Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday: the Last Supper, the Passion, and the Resurrection through the Easter Vigil on Saturday night.

There is much more to read about these closing days of this week known as Holy Week, and you may do so in the previous chapter of this blog. (Just click “Previous Post” when you get to the bottom of this one, or click here.) Cover star for this month’s Convivio Book of Days calendar is a painting called “Easter Morning,” by Caspar David Friedrich, from 1833. The trees have yet to leaf out in this painting, but by the end of this month certainly the rivers will be a’running and the vernal push will be rising through sap from root to bud as trees erupt in new green leaves. And sometimes we need a reminder like this: of how so much wonder can happen over the course of a month.

Image: “Easter Morning” by Caspar David Friedrich, oil on canvas, 1833, [Public domain], via WikiPaintings.

Wind on the Wold, or Your March Book of Days

And now it is March, a month often thought of as unpredictable: mild, then freezing cold, calm, then stormy… and a month filled with blustery days, to be sure. There is an old weather rhyme associated with the first few days of the month:

First comes David,
Next comes Chad,
Then comes Winnal,
Roaring mad.

David refers to St. David’s Day, which is today: a day sacred to Wales and a day for the wearing of leeks and daffodils on the lapel and for the making of Welsh cakes. (More on that later.) Chad and Winnal refer to the two saints whose feast days follow St. David’s: St. Chad on the Second and St. Winnal on the Third, both of them ancient saints largely by now forgotten here on earth––which may explain why Winnal is so roaring mad. Then again, it may simply be because his month of March is one of the transition months, which makes complete sense, an idea I’ve only just come across recently in my reading of this year’s Almanac by Lia Leendertz, an annual seasonal guide that I discovered last year when my friend Lisabet Summa gave me a copy of the 2020 edition. As Lia explains it: the days are growing longer, the sun is higher in the sky, and the air is being warmed by the sun. But cold pockets of air still remain. The warm air rises, and as it does, cool air swoops in to replace it… thus, wind. My description may be a bit of a simplification, but I think it relays the general idea: that wind, as Lia Leendertz says, is “nature’s attempt to even everything out and create an equilibrium.”

To honor this, our monthly gift to you, the Convivio Book of Days calendar, this time around features the winds of March as its cover star, as depicted in a painting by George Heming Mason, 1863. The calendar is, as usual, a printable PDF. Click here and it’s yours. The calendar is a fine companion to this blog as we walk through the month together and seek the equilibrium that nature seeks, too, in its windiest days.

Back now to St. David’s Day: Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus is the St. David’s Day greeting in Welsh, but in English, a simple “Happy St. David’s Day” will do. In Wales, it is a day of national pride and national celebration, similar to St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. It is a day of leeks and daffodils, perhaps because both are similar in name in Welsh. The legend of the leeks goes back to an ancient battle in Wales in which St. David himself is said to have advised the Welsh troops to wear leeks in their caps in order to distinguish themselves from the Saxon troops they were fighting. This animosity between the Celtic Welsh and the Saxon-descended English went on for some time. Here’s a story I relate most years on the First of March: it’s an old story of a man traveling on horseback in the north of Wales who comes to a river that he wishes to cross. There was a man working the field nearby, so he asked, in English, if it was safe to cross the river and the laborer replied, in English, that it was indeed. The horse, however, knew better, and refused to pass into the river. So the man upon the horse asked the laborer once again if it was safe to cross the river, this time in Welsh. “Oh, I beg your pardon, sir,” said the man on the ground. “I thought you were an Englishman.”

I hope by now that the Welsh and the English have come to be at peace with each other. The leek is now a symbol of Welsh national pride, as is the daffodil. And perhaps the Welsh cake, too. Here’s our recipe:

W E L S H   C A K E S

It’s not uncommon to find recipes for Welsh Cakes that call for regular granulated sugar, butter, and nutmeg, but the traditional recipe will add lard to the mix, use caster sugar in place of the regular sugar, and will be flavored with the more mysterious flavor of mace. If you want the best Welsh Cakes, stick to the traditional version. If you can’t find caster sugar, make your own: pulse regular granulated sugar in a blender until very fine. Do not use powdered confectioners’ sugar, which has added corn starch.

3 cups all purpose flour
½ cup caster sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground mace
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons lard
6 tablespoons butter
¾ cup dried currants
2 eggs, beaten lightly
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
granulated sugar

Whisk together the flour, caster sugar, baking powder, mace, cinnamon, and salt in a mixing bowl, then work in the butter and lard with your fingers until the mixture has the texture of course crumbs. It’s ok if some larger chunks of butter remain. Mix in the currants. Add the beaten egg, working it into the mixture, adding just enough milk to form a soft dough that is not too sticky. Wrap; chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until you are ready to make the cakes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and roll to a thickness of about ¼”. Using a biscuit cutter (scalloped, if you have one), cut into rounds. Gather up any remnants to roll out again and cut more cakes.

Heat a lightly buttered skillet (cast iron works great) over low to medium heat, cooking the cakes until each side is lightly browned (about 3 to 4 minutes… if they’re cooking quicker than that, lower the heat). Let the cakes cool for a minute or two, then set each in a bowl of granulated sugar, allowing sugar to coat both sides and the edges. Best served warm, split, with butter and jam, or, for a more savory treat, with cheese and leeks, at a table set with a small vase of daffodils.

Image: Detail from “Wind on the Wold” by George Heming Mason. Oil on canvas, 1863. Used with gratitude through Creative Commons [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

MASK UP SALE! It’s the final few days of our current sale on masks: Buy any four or more of our beautiful triple layer embroidered face masks and you’ll automatically save 24% plus free shipping to US destinations! It’s practically like getting one mask free (and all of them shipped to you for free, too). These triple layer masks are made by an extended family of artisans in Chiapas, Mexico, who truly appreciate every sale. So please throw a little transactional support their way if you can, while helping to keep yourself and those around you safe so we can gather again someday without thinking twice about it. And if you need us to ship to destinations outside the US, email us first and we can make arrangements to ship for just $1 per mask.  Click here to start shopping!

Click on the picture to see a full size version of it… the masks pictured here are the floral ones, but we also have other designs featuring calaveras, Frida Kahlo, Catrina, Maria Bonita, Our Lady of Guadalupe, sugar skulls, and mandalas, too. All of the Otomi-inspired masks are currently sold out, but we’re ordering more for March delivery.