Merry Christmas! and a Thought about Hygge

In one week it’ll be Christmas Eve. Everything that December brings is here or about to walk through the door.

I started out to write about the wonderful hygge experience of December in Denmark. It’s been a few years since I was there, but whenever dark winter starts to get to me, I try and think of the candles in the downstairs breakfast room of the City Hotel Nebo, and it cheers me up. That was my first moment of hygge, before I knew there was a word for it.

In 2010, a couple of Danish friends tried to translate hygge for me, but the word doesn’t really have an exact English equivalent. The first thing they said was, “You can’t force it.”

You feel it, a sense of comfortable, casual, cozy peace. It can come from a moment. A thing can have a quality of hygge, like a big comfy sweater or a cup of tea, or something active that works out just right, perhaps a bike ride along a canal. Even a small gesture like a hug at the right time can have hygge. Most often, as far as I can tell, it probably involves something that slows down the passage of time. Hygge doesn’t rush.

I wish we were more attuned to hygge here in Canada, but we have our own ways of greeting winter, and they’re OK too.

Christmas tree at the Calgary Zoo | Jill Browne

Christmas tree at the Calgary Zoo | Jill Browne

All the traditional seasonal things have been making an appearance in the past month. Oddly, I don’t feel “over-Christmassed” this year. I haven’t complained about the early Christmas decorations because I didn’t notice any. Right now, I love seeing the lights in the neighbourhood. The timing this year for decorations, parties, music, food, all the Christmas seasonal goings-on, all seems just right.

This sense of “not too much” is partly because in my life generally, I do an OK job of avoiding the heaviest part of the consumer experience. We haven’t had a TV in years, and on Netflix you don’t get the relentless ads that the commercial TV networks rely on.

I don’t listen to commercial radio much, just when I’m driving and need the traffic report. In fact, though I love radio, I can’t have it playing when I’m writing, and since I seem to be either writing or trying to figure stuff out most of the time, that means no radio. I listen to it for the morning news, and in the evening I indulge in my favourite podcasts from the BBC – no commercials there.

I’m not a recreational shopper. The mall isn’t an attraction, so I’m not in there looking at Stuff.

When you tune out all the commercial noise – the TV, the radio, the newspaper, the flyers, the malls – you also miss the voices of charities trying to be heard. This is the time of year a lot of them depend on to make their budget.

My email account gets more traffic from charities than it does from commercial outfits. It’s hard to choose among so many worthy causes. But, I’ve made my choices and I hope they are the right ones.

I know I’m very lucky to sit here in a warm house and reflect in comfort about the past year. I’m grateful, very grateful.

Whatever the past year has meant to you, I hope the one ahead will be better in every way that matters.

Merry Christmas!

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