Category Archives: Book of Days Calendar

Oranges, or Your February Book of Days

Welcome to February. Here is your printable Convivio Book of Days calendar for the month, and we begin straightaway this February First with the celebration of Imbolc and St. Brigid’s Day, both of them signs of spring, for even in the dead of winter, we find ourselves here in the Northern Hemisphere just about forty days past the Midwinter solstice. It is a cross quarter day: in the wheel of the year, the cross quarter days mark the midpoints between solstices and equinoxes, and so yes: not only are we about forty days past the Midwinter solstice, but we are also forty days, more or less, away from the vernal equinox. Slowly, light has been increasing, and it will continue to do so all the way to the Midsummer solstice in June. It is the constant rearrange of this old earth, and Brigid is our bridge from winter to spring. She bids us welcome, though the steps be tentative, for the bridge may yet be icy and treacherous. So be it. We take that step, for there is no other choice. Our planet, on its course around the sun, dictates our path.

And tonight, St. Brigid’s Day becomes Candlemas Eve, and this is an important night if you have been following along on our Slow Christmas journey. If you have, you’d have used the Advent season to prepare for Christmas, and you would have certainly celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and the Twelve Days of Christmas and Epiphany. And if you, like us, still have the Christmas tree and garland in your home, tonight is the night it should be removed. You may do what you wish, of course, but Robert Herrick, our old reliable 17th century Book of Days poet, reminds us of the consequences of not removing these last vestiges of Christmas greenery tonight in his poem “Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve”:

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall :
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind :
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see.

I, for one, need no goblins running amuck in my home, so here, we pay heed to Mr. Herrick’s advice. Aside from the goblins, though, leaving Christmas greenery up beyond this date comes with the risk of setting us out of step with the tides of the year. You might replace the garland and the tree with new greenery, for this is the day to fashion a St. Brigid’s cross, which looks a bit like a four-spoked wheel, of rushes or reeds. All signs now point toward spring, toward increasing light, toward rebirth.

Even the Church acknowledges this: Candlemas on the Second of February (tomorrow) is the day that candles are blessed in the church, but it is also known as Purification Day, which harkens back to an old Hebrew tradition: forty days after the birth of a son, women would go to the temple to be purified. And there it is again: renewal. And so Mary did this, for it was her tradition, and when she did, it was there at the temple that she and her infant child ran into the elders Simeon and Anna, who recognized the child as “the Light of the World.” This is the basis for the blessing of candles on this day, and the day’s lovely name, which is even more beautiful in other languages: la Candelaria in Spanish, la Chandeleur in French. In France, the traditional evening meal for la Chandeleur is crêpes. In Mexico, la Candelaria is a night for tamales and hot chocolate, while the procession and celebration in Puno, Peru, is typically so big, it rivals that of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. And while the First of February is the night that all remaining Yuletide greenery is removed from the home, tradition would have us keep nativity scenes up through Candlemas, the Second of February. And at sunset on Candlemas, we’ll go through the house, through every room, lighting every lamp, even for just a few minutes. My favorite song for the day is an old carol called “Jesus, the Light of the World.” Is it a carol for Candlemas? Who knows. Certainly the words echo those of Simeon and Anna, the elders in the temple, so as for me, I say it is.

And so tonight we will thank our Christmas tree and garland for their presence with us all through Christmas, and then quietly carry them out the back door and into a quiet corner of the backyard, returning to nature what is hers. We’ll store these things there, and they will become part of the habitat that is our yard, a bit of fir and cedar amongst the bamboo and the palms and grasses… and then when December comes around again, on the longest night, we will use what is left of the tree as fuel for our Midwinter solstice fire as we welcome down the stars and welcome back the light. I love this bit of ceremony. For us, it connects one Christmas to the next, as it sends Father Christmas off each year with respect and dignity.

At our online catalog right now use discount code LOVEHANDMADE to save $10 on your $85 purchase, plus get free domestic shipping, too. That’s a total savings of $19.50. Spend less than $85 and our flat rate shipping fee of $9.50 applies. Newest arrivals: Letterpress printed Valentine cards in the Valentine section, and check our Specialty Foods section for some incredibly delicious chocolate we found from Iceland, including a particularly Icelandic blend of milk chocolate and licorice. If you love both these things, well… Icelanders long ago discovered that covering black licorice in milk chocolate, then dusting the result in licorice powder, is just amazing. (Trust me: we’ve gone through two bags so far.)  CLICK HERE to shop; you know we appreciate your support immensely.


Our cover star for this month’s Convivio Book of Days calendar is an 1889 painting that is officially untitled, but known also as “Oranges in Tissue with Vase.” It’s orange harvest season here in Florida. The painting, which is oil on canvas, is by Alberta Binford McCloskey, and comes to us via Wikimedia Commons.


Janus, or Your January Book of Days

We’re on the downhill side now of the Twelve Days of Christmas with just a few festive days to go, and once Epiphany passes it is no longer considered bad luck to remove the Christmas decorations, but if you’re like us and very much in love with Christmas, you are welcome to do as we do and follow the tradition in which the Christmas greenery stays up until Candlemas to brighten all your wintry January days. We only got our Christmas tree and put our decorations up a few days before Christmas, so to us, it is still fresh and new and still a delight. Father Christmas has not worn out his welcome. Not at all. But you, of course, have to do what is right for you.

We’ve been so immersed in Christmas that your printable Convivio Book of Days calendar for the month of January is a bit late, but here it is all the same. Janus, the Roman god who looks both back to the past and forward to the future, gives the month its name and so our cover star this month is an image of Janus; the one we found for you is called “A British Janus,” and it is a bit of satire of the sort you may have found in 1709, when the image appeared on a printed broadside in Britain. Janus sees past and future and this he does by having two opposing faces, which, of course, also lends itself to the term two-faced and that, I think, is the theme of this particular broadside from 1709. It has something to do with Puritans and Catholics, if I’m reading the text properly, but who am I to say. I’m no Puritan, and I’m pretty sure the Puritans would have frowned upon most everything I discuss in this Book of Days. My heritage is Catholic, and Italian, no less, and between the two, we are a very dramatic people. The celebrations of each day are wonderful, and so are the stories, all of which make, I think, for a good book of this sort. (And I imagine a Puritan Book of Days would be very brief, indeed.)

And so this month brings the second half of the Twelve Days of Christmas (which, lucky for us, survived the Puritans in spite of all their efforts at quashing it) with the boisterous Twelfth Night and then Epiphany about to come. Twelfth Night on Friday, Epiphany on Saturday… we’ll be visited by the last of the Midwinter gift bearers in the form of la befana, the kindly old witch from Italy, and the Three Kings themselves who finally arrive at the stable to see the child after twelve days and nights following a star. St. Distaff’s Day will follow the next day. Historically speaking, St. Distaff’s Day is when the greenery that was wound through the spinning wheel on Christmas Eve would be removed, so that women could get back to their spinning… though with St. Distaff’s Day falling on a Sunday this year, perhaps the women would be off until Monday, and it is Monday that brings Plough Monday, when the men get back to work. In the Netherlands, this Monday following Epiphany also brings Copperman’s Day, a day particularly special to me as a letterpress printer, for print shop apprentices would get the day off to work on projects of their own on Copperman’s Day, and for several years now, I’ve been printing an annual Copperman’s Day print myself, on or around this date. Considering my track record, this year’s will probably be late, just like this month’s calendar.

January is one of the more literary months of the year. It brings St. Agnes Eve as the 20th becomes the 21st, and on this night, young women would conjure up images of their future husbands through divination. It’s a night for which, in 1820, John Keats wrote a long and lovely poem, which would make for perfect reading on the Eve of St. Agnes (and that is the title he gave the poem). A few days later comes Burns Night, when we remember the great Robert Burns, the Bard of Scotland, with Burns Night Suppers and readings of his work.

And come Candlemas Eve, once January welcomes February, Robert Herrick reminds us that is indeed time to remove the Yuletide greenery from our homes. It is then, just about 40 days past the Midwinter solstice, that St. Brigid welcomes us to take our first step onto her bridge toward spring. Ah, but I’m getting far ahead of myself. For now, January is young, as is the new year. We look to the past and to the future, following the example of Janus, and we live in the present of a cold and wintry month.


At our online shop, our Twelve Days of Christmas Sale continues through January 6 and brings you automatic markdowns on most of our authentic German handmade nutcrackers, pyramids, and incense smokers, and chocolates and cookies, too. If there are things you wished for that Santa couldn’t fit in his sleigh, well, we’re here to help (and to offer you our best prices of the year, too). CLICK HERE to shop!


Image: “A British Janus” by an unknown artist. Engraving on paper, 1709, British Museum [Public domain via Wikimedia Commons]


God Jul, or Your December Book of Days

And now it is December, and here is your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for the month. It is a month of darkness here in the Northern Hemisphere and yet we dispel the darkness with celebrations of light: from the ever increasing light each Sunday in our ring of Advent candles, to the lights that illuminate the eight nights of Chanukah, to the candles on the wreath worn by Sankta Lucia in Sweden, and of course all the lights of Christmas. The lights are powerful beacons of hope in dark times. And this we welcome gladly.

And this First Sunday of December brings the First Sunday of Advent. Advent runs late this year: the Fourth Sunday of Advent happens to be the same day as Christmas Eve. This is a calendrical event that can put occasional procrastinators like me on edge. There have been years where the Fourth Sunday of Advent arrives and I’ve not even begun my Christmas shopping, but it’s all right because Christmas is still the better part of a week away. Not so when the Fourth Sunday of Advent falls on the same day as Christmas Eve. If you, too, are in the Procrastination Boat, keep this in mind and make plans now to do things right this year.

But more than a signal to shop, Advent is a time of preparation, a time, as the French Advent song goes, to make our homes as fair as we are able. And not just our dwellings but our hearts, as well. Tonight, on the Advent wreath of four candles, we will light the first candle: one purple candle, representing Hope. On the Second Sunday of Advent, two purple candles are illuminated: the original one and a new one, representing Peace. On the Third Sunday of Advent we add to those a rose candle, symbolizing Joy (hence the name for the day, Gaudete Sunday). And on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, a third purple candle is illuminated, as well, this one representing Love. With all four candles illuminated the Advent wreath shines brightest, just as the longest, darkest nights of the year are upon us. It is powerful symbolism and a reminder of how it is up to each of us to be a light bearer in times of darkness, through hope, through joy, through peace and love.

Advent is the beginning of the church year. It has another meaning, too: Arrival. And even if your Christmas celebration is a purely secular one, Advent has its place: this hope and peace and joy and love help us set the stage for the abundance that is Christmas. And so we circle around to Advent––which used to begin on the 12th of November, the day after Martinmas and our annual time of remembering the dead––bringing us this time of preparation, for before we can properly understand the joy and celebration of Christmas, it is helpful to acknowledge our need to feel those things, lest Christmas come off as too cloying, too sweet. And so we acknowledge the darkness, and understand that the light that pierces the darkness comes from within. Hide not your light under a bushel. And so it is a time, as well, to make amends, and to right wrongs.

Image: A Christmas card from Sweden, designed by Adèle Söderberg. Color lithography, early 20th century (pre-1916) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.



Right now at our online shop you can save $10 on an $85 purchase on everything in the store with code SLOWCHRISTMAS at checkout, plus earn free domestic shipping, too.



Friday December 8, Lake Worth
On the Eve of St. Nicholas’ Day, it is Krampus who accompanies the good saint to scare girls and boys into good behavior, and he gets his own celebration at the American German Club in suburban Lake Worth on Friday evening, December 8, from 7 to 11 PM. We’ll be there with our biggest pop-up shop ever as this night ushers in the weekend’s Christkindlmarkt. Tickets required and must be purchased in advance. 5111 Lantana Road, Lake Worth.

Saturday & Sunday, December 9 & 10, Lake Worth
It’s our favorite event of the year! The annual Christkindlmarkt at the American German Club in suburban Lake Worth is just wonderful, and we’ll be there with our biggest pop-up shop ever, filled with German Christmas artisan goods plus more from Sweden and Mexico, as well as specialty foods and who knows what else! Tickets are required and must be purchased in advance. Usually sells out! Saturday December 9 from 2 to 10 PM and Sunday December 10 from 12 to 8 PM. 5111 Lantana Road, Lake Worth.