We spend weeks preparing for Christmas. We run around shops in search of the perfect gifts for our loved ones, fill our homes with Christmas decorations and stack our fridges with delicacies to be enjoyed with the family. We dine with our families on the 24th December, or excitedly unwrap our presents on the morning of the 25th – depending on the customs of the country we live in. The Christmas traditions may change depending on our geographical location, but around the world the one Christmas-constant is the special atmosphere we are all hoping to create.
People across the globe agree that Christmas is a time of togetherness. It’s that special time of the year when we pause everything, when work comes second for a change, and we focus on our loved ones and we try to be present.
In “The little book of hygge: the Danish way to live well”, Meik Wiking describes Christmas as one of the most hyggelig seasons. Hygge is a Danish term used to describe the cozy, warm atmosphere of safety and connectedness. Think fluffy blankets, hot chocolate and board games by the fireplace. In the words of the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, hygge can be “everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things”. Following this definition, it’s easy to understand how Christmas carols, mulled wine, eating good food in the company of your loved ones, pine scent and cracling fire while it’s snowing outside, are full of hygge (or as the Danish say, hyggelig).
The very concept that hygge represents is nothing new – most people in Europe are naturally drawn to beautiful interiors, warm lights, smell of freshly baked cake, natural materials and comfotable clothes, things that are hyggelig. The difference is that we do it subconsciously, while the Danes turned it into a conscious choice. They deliberately fill their homes with candles (very hyggelig!), make time for their friends and surround themselves with interiors that are high on the cosy-factor. As described by Marie Tourell Soderberg, hygge is “the danish art of happiness” and has been found to be a significant factor contributing to our wellbeing.
While many of us are still finishing off the leftover Christmas food and re-watching all the Christmas classics, some are busy hunting bargains in the shopping centres. England in particular is famour for its Boxing Day sales. Thousands of people prefer to spend their day off work shopping to staying home with their families, driving up sales and helping retailers make profit. Sadly, what started off as a medieval tradition of giving boxes of money and little gifts to the poor, has now become one of the most lucrative selling days for the years.
This Christmas, I wish you to spend this day in a more hygge way. Instead of spending money on goods you’ve been tricked to belive you need, how about you focus on people instead? Maybe call a relative you have not spoken to in a while, snuggle up underneath a fluffy blanket with your spouse or a child while watching “It’s a wonderful life”, ask your grandparents to tell you how they used to spend Christmas when they were little, invite a friend home for some remaining cake. Be present. Spend time, instead of money.
Merry Christmas and have a hyggelig time.