Lockdown II starts tonight at midnight in England. I hadn’t realised, or I might have made sure I did something more spectacular today than pootle quietly around the local shopping park, collecting small bits and pieces that I wanted for Christmas and would find too expensive or ridiculous to order from the shops online (seriously, who would order three packets of gold coins from one shop, which was what I bought today).
Christmas is only just seven weeks away, or will be on Friday, which is Mr Hygge Jem’s birthday. It’s one of the small moments in the last third of the year that I tick off as part of my Christmas countdown. I know when his birthday is here it’s time to get serious about Christmas. Usually I’ll already have got my planner out and started collecting bits and pieces… I buy presents from about August onwards, and have to remember to record them when I buy them, so I don’t lose them before December. I have shopping lists divided according to month, so I know exactly what I usually buy in October, November and early December. Yes, I really am that organised about Christmas. It is the only event in my life I plan so intricately.
But this year life is all A over T, as my Dad would put it. All mixed up and squiggled, like someone got the months and put them in a blender and pressed pulse. It’s November: we had October already. That was the month after May. Seriously, I sat down and asked the lads what did they want for Christmas, only to be met with blank faces and a protest that they hadn’t noticed the summer ending, let alone Winter peeping over the windowsill. And I haven’t ticked much off my October shopping list, let alone look at my November list….
How have we come to this? Well, that Great Global Pandemic has really messed with our lives. We haven’t had our usual annual markers…. I don’t know about you, but in our house there was no summer holiday from school or university, mostly because there was no difference between the end of term and the holidays themselves. We had no break, no time away, no vacation, no weekends out or daytrips across the country. The furtherest I’ve been is to Nottingham… a 2 1/2 hour journey away, and that was to drop the Daughter off. We’ve barely lifted our eyes up from the daily trudge.
But enough! We might be entering another period of enforced physical separation from family and friends, but I have my secret weapon ready: Christmas. I’m full steam ahead planning a Coronavirus Christmas. When it became obvious that a second wave was almost certain (in July, for me, based on historical pandemics and the fact we as a country were lifting restrictions quite quickly) I started thinking ahead, taking my traditional family Christmas and wondering how we could do the same as we usually do, or something similar, while living in a world that means we don’t know whether it’s five or fifteen for Christmas and without spreading gherms over everyone.
I’ve put all my thoughts, plans and ideas into a new book: Celebrating a Contagious Christmas. It was supposed to just be available only in ebook form, but it’s also available in paperback now by popular demand. It’s about taking your traditional Christmas apart bit by bit, taking an open minded approach to it and assembling it, complete with covid restrictions and lack of money at the fore, to celebrate a Christmas of Love. We’re facing a Contagious Christmas anyway, so why not make it a season to spread Hope, not germs.
The book has four distinct sections: What Does Christmas Mean to You?; Christmas Old and New; Keeping Christmas Well; and Apocalypse Noel. The idea is that you consider the minimum you need to make Christmas safe and happy, like the bones of your Christmas including who needs to be included and how you can support others. Then you look at what makes your Christmas lovely usually, the events, meals and people you enjoy best, and how you can experience them either virtually or with a twist. Keeping Christmas Well is about making sure that you, the Christmas Fairy, stay well mentally and physically. It’s about those pillars of health that we all need to keep in place.
The last section, Apocalypse Noel, is about preparing for the worst: what you need to keep in your apocabox in case of illness, what goes in a household first aid kit and what to do if the worst happens… be prepared is not just a good motto for Scouts, you know.
And, together with my planner and my almost constant companion at the moment, Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles, it will get me through the end of what will surely be the strangest year I’ve had ever.
Planning ahead, having Christmas sorted, will help me stay grounded. Knowing that most of my shopping is done, that I have menus planned that are adaptable and that I could, at a pinch, pass my planner on to another member of my family and Christmas would still happen makes me feel secure.
Having such a elegiac celebration of Christmas as Nigel’s book helps as well. He writes beautifully of his love for Christmas and Winter, in phrases that mean that, even though we won’t experience a Christmas Market for ourselves this season, I can still anticipate the sensory indulgences of mulled wine, gingerbread and incense. His little essays on crackers, decorations, trees, candles… hygge, hygge, hygge. I’m reading alongside my Hygge Nook friends as well, in the facebook group Beyond The Christmas Chronicles. It’s a great blessing to share thoughts and emotions with others reading the same book, although not necessarily at the same time. We’re a very relaxed reading group.
And inspired by Nigel, I’m going to keep a small diary of my own during this Lockdown. Between home and work I can write small passages about the things that keep me grounded. The food, the drink, the friends, the thoughts. I hope in years to come I’ll look back at it and remember how bizarre the world was. I started today (when better to chronicle the world than when the world gives you plenty to chronicle) and it seems likely to be one of my favourite quiet, small, grounding activities each day. Because I’m limiting myself to a page a day, it will also force me to focus on what I actually want to record… another grounding activity, because it makes you edit the incidents to just those that matter to you.
Here, then, are the four books most likely to keep me sane and grounded this year. They’ll sit next to my armchair in my tatting basket, and I know I’ll find escape or support or simply a reminder that life is more than Lockdown. I have plans for December this year: virtual crafternoons, German Markets in the safety of my own home and plenty of self-care. You should see the planning list I put in my bullet journal….. but that’s another staging post on my path to Christmas.
If you’d like to support me….
I don’t monetise my blog. I don’t run adverts, take sponsorship for writing posts or use affiliate links. I want everything I do on this blog and in my hygge life outside to be truthful. If I promote a book it’s because I’ve read it and like it, if I point out an item it’s because it’s impressed me on its own merits and not because the publicist has talked me into it. It does mean I don’t run giveaways and I’m not chasing followers, but the drawback is that I need to find a way to support myself.
That’s why I write books. My thoughts are that if I ask you to buy a book not only does it support me, and let me keep writing as an independent writer, but you get something back for your bucks. I’ve written several books, some on Hygge, some on Christmas. If you like what you read here, or in the Hygge Nook, and you’d like to support a struggling writer, would you please consider buying a book? E-books give you the best value, since for 2 or 3 pounds you get the whole content of the book without paying the extra for paper production, but I’d be a pretty poor writer if I didn’t appreciate the beauty of a real book in the hand. If you buy even just one book, it all adds up in the end to support me, and I’d be so grateful.
My latest book, Celebrating a Contagious Christmas, is available on Amazon now as an ebook and, by popular demand, a paperback. It’s about the adjustments we’ll have to make to our usual Christmas celebrations if we’re in Lockdown come December, how illness or employment may make a difference and how we have to spread hope, not germs, in an attempt to keep the world on an even keel.
Cosy Happy Hygge is available as an ebook or a paperback on Amazon now. It’s about using rhythm and ritual to make your life a gentler, kinder place. Writing it has been an important part of my mental health recovery.
My first three books are hygge related, 50 Ways to Hygge the British Way was my first book, and is available in Paperback and Kindle version. It’s a simple look at ways to feel more hyggely in life and at home even though we’re not Danish and don’t have it in our DNA. Although it was inspired by the blog, it’s completely original work and not collected blogposts. It will probably be updated and an improved second edition coming in Spring 2021.
How to Hygge Your Summer, in Paperback and Kindle form, has lots of good ideas for the summer months. I strongly believe that hygge is so much more than throws and warm drinks.
Happier is my fourth book. It’s about how I boost my own happiness levels. It’s full of hints, tips and ideas for you to use and adapt to suit your own situation. It is available in ebook and paperback version from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
I have three Christmas books,
Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas was released in September 2017 and is available again in paperback and ebook version. It looks at keeping the Christmas season warm and cosy, with ideas for activities and routines to keep Christmas happy.
A (Hygge) Christmas Carol is my look at Dickens’ immortal classic and the many lessons we still learn from it today. It contains the full text of the book as well as hyggely thoughts on the story.
Enjoying a Self Care Christmas is only available in e-book version. It’s about keeping Christmas simple enough and healthy enough to keep you sane in the process. I’m hoping to do a series of Self Care through the year books.
If you already have my books, or just want to support me as an independent writer, you can always just send me the price of a cup of coffee as a friend, to paypal.me/HyggeJem . I tend to use a lot (all) of my spare cash on books that I review for the website, so every penny donated goes towards building my happy hygge life.
If you buy any of the books or some of the items through the links on this page, I get a couple of extra pence per copy, as an Amazon Affiliate, in Amazon vouchers which go towards buying more books to review for the blog. I’d really love it if you’d support me monetarily, but I quite understand that cash is tight for many people, and I just love having your support via reading and commenting as well.
Truthfully, I’ll probably never make a living as a writer, but I do make a little extra income that gets ploughed back into books and magazines. One obsession feeds the other.