My early years have been spent as a member of one church or another. Well, only two that I was a proper member at, by which I mean building relationships with the other members, doing things around the church, and regularly worshipping in a large group. The Church is not the building, it’s the people, and we still manage during Covid to get together virtually, to share online in a Facebook group, to support each other on social media and in many little interactions face to face or virtually. Yet we are still talking about how great it will be to get together in our little church, to meet and hug and sit in a space created by the Victorians to represent both boat (we’re all in this together) and Forest (lift up your eyes, and worship the wonders around you). If you’d like to know what my church looks like, look up St Peter’s Woolton… or watch Yesterday. That guy playing Father Mackensie on the right? That’s our Vicar, Kip. He’s cool, a very nice man.
I like churches as buildings: they’re strong and solid usually, especially if they were built any more than 100 years ago. Churches, as spiritual places to meet an Eternal God, are built to last. You should walk into one and know that, whatever happens in the world around you or indeed to you yourself, this building will be there in 100, 400, 1000 years time. Cathedrals take this eternity concept and ramp it up with the quality of scale as well. They’re so big, so massive, you just know they’ll last forever and your place in them is such a small speck in such a vast building that, really, what impact can you hope to have on them?
Of course, the fires at Notre Dame and Nantes Cathedrals in France show there’s a degree of hubris about any man-made building claiming eternal life. Things change, civilisations expand and fail, and worlds that seemed so safe and secure at one point in time teeter on the edge at another.
This year has been a crazy year for stability. I’m not aware of any country in the world that hasn’t suffered from Covid, or from the stresses that came along, either because of the tactics necessary to combat the disease or the global events that happened alongside that battle. And don’t even mention politics in any part of the world…. sometimes the whole political ecosystem seems to have tilted and we’re just like champagne flutes teetering dangerously near the edge…..
At times like this, people need to look towards different sources for their stability. In my life, when external circumstances have gone to pot, I always find I draw within, physically and metaphorically. I retreat to my home, to my family, and concentrate on creating, maintaining a semblance of normality there even as the wind howls and the raging force of political hurricanes batter on. I fall back on hygge and the ability it has to make me feel better. That means I pull back into my home and family: I treasure the safety and strength a solid foundation gives to me and to the otehrs in my family.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Christmas, to me, has always been a fixed point in time if not in manner of celebration. You know it’s going to come every 25th of December, ready or not. And you know it’s a positive moment, whatever life has to offer. It’s a celebration of Light, at its most basic, whether you’re a Christian, a Pagan, a secularist who buys the presents and enjoys the trappings without any religious undertones or a person who know no more about it than we give presents and have a tree. It’s a unifying moment, even if the reason for the season varies from person to person.
I like to take a multi-faceted stand towards Christmas. I don’t care why you celebrate, or how you celebrate, as long as it gives you pleasure. Party animal, party pooper, what’s the issue? Hell would be if the animal got told to stay at home and the pooper got ordered out. I’m mostly a party pooper, I have to say. I love my home, and I love my family and, although I like parties and meeting people (that empty seat at your table? That’ll be me jumping in there to say hello and who are you) I’m almost certainly happier at home with a pot of chai, a decent film and my family there.
And my Christmas isn’t just a day. I can’t believe anybody just celebrates Christmas for one day a year. No, it’s a season, and although liturgically speaking the Church calls the period between Christmas and Candlemas Christmastide, for me as for most of the world Christmas is the time before December 25th and up to Twelfth Night on January 6th. Advent, in short, is as much a time of celebration, preparation and experience of the gift of Christmas as the Day itself.
So this year, when so many storms have battered us as a human race, when we’ve had faith in Mankind put to the test again and again and when the space, stillness and sanctity of churches as a building have been taken from us due to restrictions beyond our control, I’m keeping Advent well. Not with big parties, not with groups of people meeting in person and massive gatherings that represent risk and thoughtlessness, but with small actions, small moments and small thoughts. With my family, instead of a large congregation. With a cup of tea instead of a massive party spread. And with a flickering candle instead of a fully lit church. This year, my advent will be one of hope for the future of humanity: not a hope that rests on Important People doing Important Things, but the Hope that comes from the vision of small actions making big differences. If a Butterfly wing can cause a tsunami, how much greater can the effect of one person spreading love, hope and joy to another one be?
So each day I propose posting on the blog (don’t worry, I’m writing and pre-posting in advance, so I can have space to breathe in December as is my habit) and sharing a webpage I’ve enjoyed reading, which could be a recipe or an article (holy or not), a book to read and a self-care action to take, which should only take five minutes. Life’s too busy in December to spend hours doing anything extra complicated. I’ll also share my Advent treats: every Sunday I gift myself a book and a week to read it. Here’s the pile unwrapped:
Daily Reading: A Humanist’s Take on Celebrating Advent.
Daily Book: Dwelling by Melissa Michaels. This is my first gift to myself, so I can’t actually say what the book is like, but it looks at how we can connect our internal and external dwelling places (our mind and home) to create a healthy, happy space in both.
Self Care for Today: Take five minutes to think about those who can’t or won’t be celebrating with you this year. Plan something to do to to remember them. If it’s because they’ve sadly passed, can you get a candle and light it everyday in their honour. If it’s due to coronavirus/age/infirmity, can you start preparing a hamper for them, with some edible goodies, a book or magazines or another treat for them. Self care often involves us knowing that we can relax because we have taken care of our loved ones to the best of our abilities at that time.
How to Hygge The British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted or bought by me with my everyday wages.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
A Self-Care Christmas: A short ebook on keeping Christmas simple and making sure it doesn’t overwhelm.
Celebrating A Contagious Christmas: Available in ebook and paperback, it’s about making this year a festival of Hope.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.
I wish you a Merry Christmas, however we get to celebrate it this year, and a Happy, Healthy and Simple New Year.