Category Archives: St. John’s Day

Glad Midsommar & a Grand Opening

So, here we are at the June solstice. The first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and yet, by traditional reckoning of time, a time our ancestors called Midsummer. There is a certain loveliness to the logic in this viewpoint and this nomenclature, for daylight has been increasing on a daily basis since the December solstice, and now, as we reach Midsummer, the pendulum swings back again toward the other direction, and with this passing day, light will begin to decrease. And just as the days that follow the December solstice bring celebratory, magical days, so do the days that follow the June solstice––they’re just not widely honored here in the States, much to our loss. But just as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day follow the Midwinter solstice, so do St. John’s Eve and St. John’s Day follow the Midsummer solstice. Opposite spokes of the Wheel of the Year, designed intentionally to correspond with the Constant Rearrange that comes about naturally through the choreography between the sun and a planet Earth that is tilted 23.5 degrees.

This time around, the more-or-less precise solstice moment here in Lake Worth, which is in US Eastern Daylight Time, is  today, Thursday, June 20, at 4:50 PM. And me, I can only apologize for writing so infrequently lately, but all our energies have been focused on getting our new Convivio Bookworks shop. Friday is the grand opening! The Mayor (with her very large scissors, for cutting the ceremonial ribbon) and the Vice-Mayor and several City Commissioners have promised to be here. And since it’s Midsummer, we’ll have a letterpress Glad Midsommar card you can print yourself, and we’ll also teach you how to make a floral crown, and there will be a tasting event featuring many of our Scandinavian specialty foods and beverages. And, of course, great shopping, good music, nice people… I honestly can’t think of anything not to like. And we’ll help you celebrate a proper Midsummer, too.

After the Grand Opening, our plan is for open hours every Saturday from 11 AM to 4 PM. You may also contact us to shop or visit the place by appointment: We’re happy to do so!

It’s a Midsummer celebration! Official ribbon cutting with City officials on Friday June 21 at 3:30 PM, and we’ll be open all that weekend (Friday June 21 from 3 to 8 PM, Saturday June 22 from 11 AM to 7 PM, and Sunday June 23 from 10 AM to 4 PM) with lots of Midsummer fun. The new shop is at 1110 North G Street, Suite D, Lake Worth Beach, FL 33460. From I-95, exit 10th Avenue North eastbound; make a left at the first traffic signal onto North A Street, then at the first stop sign, turn right onto 13th Avenue North. Cross the railroad tracks and turn right again onto North G Street. We’re a couple blocks down on your left side in a blue-roofed building. Plenty of street parking on G Street and there are a few spots in our little parking lot, too.

SHOP OUR SUMMER SALE… both online and in-store!
At our online catalog right now, you may use discount code BLOSSOM 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. CLICK HERE to shop; you know we appreciate your support immensely. And yes, you may use that $10 discount when you visit us in the store, too!


First Two Days of Christmas

Advent has run its course, Christmas has been made welcome, and now we enter into the Christmas season proper. When we sing the old carol about five golden rings and a partridge in a pear tree and all those other gifts that my true love gave to me, this is what we are singing about: The Twelve Days of Christmas begin now, now that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have passed.

There are two approaches to the calculation of these Twelve Days: One approach has the Twelve Days of Christmas beginning on Christmas Day itself, while the other starts them on St. Stephen’s Day, the 26th of December. In this house, we subscribe to the second approach. Our ancestors, who perhaps were more attuned than we to the passing of the days and to each day’s meaning, loved symmetry in numbers, and the second approach provides exactly that. Christmas Day itself has long been seen as a day outside ordinary time: a most distinct and holy day, followed by a beautiful symmetry that comes along with the passing of the year. In this model, we have six days of Christmas in the old year and six days in the new, creating a balanced bridge at the start and end of each year, a balance that links the other old story –– that of the ever expanding round of the year as this old earth spins on its axis and rotates around the sun –– to the story of the child’s birth at Bethlehem. The links connect Christmas through the years in a lovely balance. More mystery, of the universal sort, heavenly yet here on earth.

If you feel let down when Christmas Day has passed, join us on our journey and you won’t have any reason to feel this way, and I do hope you’ll join us at your home in celebrating the full season that lasts through Epiphany on the Sixth of January. And if you are a bit in love with Christmas as we are in this household, welcome. Our Christmas tree and other greenery will be illuminated tonight and every night through Epiphany, and most likely we will go even beyond, for traditionally the greenery would come down at Candlemas Eve: the First of February. Keeping it up longer would invite goblins into your home, and no one wants that. But to bring light and cheer through all the dark month of January is, I think, a wonderful thing.

My plan this year for the Twelve Days of Christmas is to write a few Book of Days chapters, grouping together the days of Christmas that seem fittingly grouped, and in this chapter, we’ll discuss the first Two Days of Christmas. Before we begin, I’ve got a worthy suggestion: there are a few farm stand and pantry items you may find handy to stock up on for this season. My recommendations: apples, chestnuts, mulling spices, honey, red wine, fresh cider, and rose water. We can supply your mulling spices and rose water; ours are both made by the Sabbathday Lake Shakers and we’ll ship via US Priority Mail to get your domestic order to you in just two or three days.

And now to begin our journey: It begins, of course, with Christmas Day, December 25, a day outside ordinary time. In our model, Christmas Day stands alone in its holiness, a holyday/holiday if ever there was one. But December 26 brings St. Stephen’s Day and the First Day of Christmas:

December 26
St. Stephen’s Day, Boxing Day, Day of the Wren, First Day of Kwanzaa

On this First Day of Christmas, Father Christmas brings Boxing Day, celebrated in England and the Commonwealth countries. Servants typically had to work on Christmas Day, but this First Day of Christmas was their day to spend with their families. Their employers would send them home with boxes of gifts for themselves and for the families they were heading home to. Perhaps more important, though, it is St. Stephen’s Day. Stephen was the first Christian martyr, and so the Church assigned this first day of Christmas to him. In Italy, this Giorno di Santo Stefano is a big deal. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is for family, but St. Stephen’s Day is a day to bundle up and go out to visit friends and to visit nativity scenes. It is a day for roasted chestnuts and mulled wine (as is tomorrow, St. John’s Day: the Second Day of Christmas). My grandmother, Assunta, typically made soup for supper on this First Day of Christmas, when we remember Santo Stefano. The soup was a nice break from the rich fare of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Over in Ireland, it is the Day of the Wren. It is the wren that is traditionally thought to have brought bad luck upon the imprisoned Stephen, who was making his escape when a wren alerted the sleeping guards to the situation. His capture lead to his execution and martyrdom. Wrens were traditionally hunted on this First Day of Christmas, then paraded around town. Nowadays, the wrens paraded around town are effigies, and not real wrens (all is forgiven, wrens!).

The 26th also brings the start of a newer tradition, the First Day of Kwanzaa, which brings yet more light to the world through candles and a celebration of African-American culture: each candle and each day, through the First of January, focusing on one of seven principles: first, umoja (unity); then kujichagulia (self-determination); next, ujima (collective work and responsibility); followed by ujamaa (cooperative economics); and then nia (purpose); kuumba (creativity); and finally imani (faith).

December 27
St. John’s Day

On St. John’s Day we remember St. John the Evangelist, one of the Twelve Apostles and the only one who did not die a martyr’s death for his beliefs, although many attempts were made on his life. In the most famous of these, St. John was sentenced to die by ingesting poisoned wine. John drank the wine but the poison had no effect on him. And so it is customary on this Second Day of Christmas to give gifts of wine, as well as to bring bottles of wine to church to be blessed, especially in Germany and Austria. This blessed St. John’s wine is thought to have healing properties and to taste better than other wines. Some even hold that wine that is not blessed but is stored nearby to blessed St. John’s wine improves in flavor just by being near it. It is a fine night (as are most nights during Christmastide) to enjoy mulled wine and roasted chestnuts… and here is our recipe for mulled wine, one of the loveliest drinks of the Yuletide season (indeed, all winter long):

M U L L E D   W I N E
A bottle of good red wine
Mulling spices (a blend of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, orange peel)

Pour a quantity (enough for as many people as you are serving) of good red wine into a stainless steel or enamel pot and set it on the stove over medium heat. Add about a teaspoon of mulling spices for each serving. Add sugar: start with a teaspoon or two of sugar and add more to taste. We prefer a less-sweet mulled wine, and while you can always add more sugar, you can’t take it away once it’s in. So my recommendation is to add the sugar gradually, tasting as you go. Heat to allow the spicy flavors to infuse the wine, but do not allow to boil. Strain before serving in cups (not glasses).

I’ll be back with our next chapter on the Third Day of Christmas: Childremas, or Holy Innocents’ Day… it is a day in the Twelve when the story takes a dark turn, acknowledging the sorrows in life. For now, though: Cheers!

At our online shop, our Twelve Days of Christmas Sale brings you automatic markdowns on most of our authentic German handmade nutcrackers, pyramids, and incense smokers. We are running the sale for the full Twelve Days of Christmas, through the Sixth Day of January. If there are things you wanted 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: “Provando o Vinho” (“Tasting the Wine”) by an unknown artist working in the English School, Portugal. Oil painting, 19th century. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

Midsummer Solstice

June 21 this year brings the June Solstice: Midsummer in the Northern Hemisphere, Midwinter in the Southern. As precision goes, the solstice moment this time around, more or less (for there are variations east and west within time zones), is 10:57 AM here in US Eastern Daylight Time. That is the moment when the sun’s rays strike the Tropic of Cancer, 23.5° north of the Equator. It is our longest day in the Northern Hemisphere. And for a lovely explanation of why (by way of a fresh lemon representing Earth), I invite you to watch a short video by one of the people on this planet that I really admire: Lia Leendertz, author of The Almanac, which you might think of as a Book of Days with a British focus, explains the celestial mechanics while offering some thoughts on Midsummer in a charming video she released just yesterday.

This 23.5° tilt of the Earth brings us our seasons, and today, we reach the extreme that brings the most sunlight to the Northern Hemisphere. It is the start of summer by the almanac, but our ancestors saw this as the height of summer, hence its older monicker: Midsummer. And just as the Midwinter solstice in December is soon followed by Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so too is the Midsummer solstice soon followed by St. John’s Eve and St. John’s Day. St. John’s Eve will come on Friday, the evening of the 23rd, and St. John’s Day on the 24th. This St. John is John the Baptist: the cousin of Jesus, he who was sent to prepare his way. All those feast days of saints that we celebrate throughout the year… like when we eat zeppole on St. Joseph’s Day, or minne de virgine on St. Agatha’s Day, or soda bread on St. Patrick’s Day: all these feasts commemorate the day each of these people left this earthly life. There are only three birthdays the Church celebrates each year: Jesus, Mary, and John the Baptist. It’s the two cousins that are the more fascinating here, because the Church placed their birthdates at the solstices. No one knows for sure when they were actually born, but they are placed in this particular order in the round of the year for metaphoric reasons: St. John is born at the brightest time of the year, the time of our longest days. But what happens immediately after the Midsummer solstice? Sunlight begins to decrease a little bit each day. It is the Constant Rearrange: no day exactly like the one that came before or the one that follows. John himself tells us something to the effect of, “I must decrease so he may increase.” John prepares the way for Jesus, the Light of the World. And Jesus is born then, at the opposite pole of the year, the time of our darkest days, our longest nights, just as sunlight is again increasing.

That is one version, anyway. It is the old old story and a fascinating one: the story of our planet and its place in the universe and it is our story, too, no matter which players you place in the roles. The planet continues its journey around the sun at its 23.5° tilt and with it comes summer and fall and winter and spring and therein, in this simplicity, lies the mystery. The mystery of our unfolding days and the spiraling circular nature of our existence.


Join me on Friday, June 23, in the afternoon hours before St. John’s Eve begins, for the Real Mail Fridays Midsummer Social on Zoom. This online social runs from 2 to 5 Eastern, and you may come and go as you please for time to get things done (letter writing or otherwise) in the company of friends from around the globe. We will feature music by Felix Mendelssohn and readings from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, mixed in with some other music fitting for the height of summer, and once an hour we’ll take a little break for some casual banter. We welcome you to join us from wherever you are by clicking here. Real Mail Fridays is always a very heartwarming time and this week it’s a midsummery time, too.

Saturday evening, St. John’s Night, Seth & I are thinking about going to the Midsummer Fest––the Juhannusjuhla––outdoors at Finnish-American Village, weather permitting. There’ll be a traditional midsummer bonfire! Entry is $5. Finnish American Village is at 1800 South Drive here in Lake Worth, Florida. The festivities begin at 6 PM, but if we go, we’ll be going later, as I am teaching a workshop that day at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts called Book Arts 101: Midsummer Night’s Dream and then we’ll be having a traditional Swedish Midsommar feast, of the carry-out sort, from our friends at Johan’s Jöe in West Palm Beach. They are accepting Midsommar catering orders through Thursday. Everything at Johan’s is always delicious! Here’s a link to order your own Midsommar feast from Johan’s. Highly recommended!

Also online, I invite you to watch the episode of Stay Awake Bedtime Stories that I recorded last year for Midsummer: It’s my own retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, an adaptation of the 1899 story version by Edith Nesbit. It’s a fun time. And in the video, I’m wearing an awesome floral crown that Seth made for me. Click here to watch.


At our online catalog, use discount code BLOSSOM to take $10 off your order of $85 or more, plus get free domestic shipping. Good on everything in the shop! Click here to shop! Happy Midsummer to you all. Glad Midsommar. Hyvää Juhannusta.


Image: “Summer Night (Sommernatt)” by Harald Sohlberg. Oil on canvas, 1899. National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.