December is an exceptional month and one of my favourites. It marks the end of the calendar year, the return of more daylight and many gatherings for religious and family celebrations. It’s a time of both reverence and joyfulness. We all have ways to mark the special occasions we celebrate and outside of the more formal religious traditions, it’s a good idea to make sure our rituals match our lifestyle.
It’s been said that the festive season is the most wonderful time of the year, and it can be. I’ve chosen to stop making the full turkey dinner for our Christmas celebration; instead, my gift to myself is purchasing the meal already made, requiring some easy reheating in the oven. When you add up the time and effort it’s a fair trade with the added benefit of more time for me to enjoy the day.
If the Pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to have a deeper appreciation of what’s important to us, choosing to invest our precious time wisely. It’s not so much how many friends you have but the quality of those friendships. The Pandemic reminded us that we’re all in this together and helped us feel more comfortable caring for each other. These are the things to celebrate during the festive season.
“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
-Hamilton Wright Mabie
The Danish and Norwegian cultures set the mood for feelings of well-being and pleasure with their tradition of Hygge (pronounced hew-guh). It’s a general living concept that focuses on coziness and enjoying the good things in life with good people. If you’re on your own, simply enjoying your morning cup of coffee or tea in a cozy setting or dressing warmly to enjoy a walk outdoors would do the trick. Perhaps taking a bubble bath will help create that comfy feeling.
Gathering with people is a feature of Hygge, given the long cold winter days. We can create a welcoming atmosphere to share food and drink with friends but consider doing it during the day for lunch or snacks instead of in the evening for dinner. It’s a way to connect over festive food and uplift one another, in a season where some of us may struggle.
“May your walls know joy, may every room hold laughter, and every window open to great possibility.”
-Mary Anne Radmacher
Nostalgia can take hold in December, when we’re reminded of family and friends we miss or traditions we long for. Recently I learned from an ageless 97-year-old woman at Wellings of Corunna that it’s better to focus on what we can do instead of complaining about what we can’t do anymore. It may be the perfect opportunity to start some new activities that will light you up this festive season or re-ignite some of the traditions you loved before the Pandemic started.
If you long for the gatherings you used to have, organize a gathering with a few friends, where everyone brings some food to share or have everyone contribute to having it catered. Instead of missing all the baking you used to do for family and friends, come up with one or two things you love to make and share your goodies with people around you. How about a special sweet gift for that person who might be challenging to love or who might be struggling in some way?
Consider creating your own holiday cards or purchasing cards and sending them in the mail or dropping off at someone’s door, to lift their spirits and let them know you’re thinking of them. Again, consider someone who might be stressed about something because they need our kindness now more than ever. In fact, kindness is the best one-size fits all, everyone needs it kind of gift.
If you’re considering what to give your family and friends, why not ask them what they need instead of giving them more stuff. Maybe they need help paying bills or they need a night off from taking care of children; your gift could be to pay for a babysitter. One Christmas my husband and I were gifted with a three-month soup subscription and another year we received a three-month cheese subscription. Being creative with gift giving is lots of fun and makes the person receiving your gift feel special.
I find twinkle lights so festive; I have them glowing in our living room, all winter long. They’re inexpensive and rather magical to me. I’m sticking with two traditions that have deep roots in both my husband’s and my family. My mother-in-law’s white fruit cake is something people line up for and the treasured plum pudding that my Mum and Godmother made will grace our table and will be shared as gifts. These limited-edition homemade treats evoke the spirit of Hygge (which makes me think of a hug) bringing up warm, cozy memories we all have of the festive season.
This year, as you reflect on what’s important to you, enjoy sharing the spirit of the season with others and remember to be a gracious receiver. Appreciation and kindness are two of the most needed gifts of all. Wishing you much joy, peace and Hygge this holiday season.