Christmas is a season built on traditions: we always put the tree in this spot, we have this meal on this day and go to this event on such and such an evening. I’ve been looking through my old diaries and, yes, the same events come up again and again. There’s always a Liverpool Lawyers Carol Service on the Monday before Christmas, a day out to York in the week between Christmas and New Year (Twixmas, or Romjul? Which do you prefer?) and, a regular highlight on a Saturday before Christmas, a visit to Manchester Christmas Market.
Manchester has a fair sized set of markets, but I’m sure they’re still not a patch on the markets over in Germany and Austria, which Nigel Slater describes in his excellent winter companion, The Christmas Chronicles. Nigel has such a lovely turn of phrase and the ability to describe places and situations in such sensory detail that you can imagine yourself stood there, by the Dom in Cologne and looking at the packed markets in the darkening dusk. I have never made it to a proper (by which I mean cold and dark) Christmas Market yet, despite longing to go all my life. It’s on the list of places to visit when my ship, or the lottery win, comes in. My only continental Christmas market was Barcelona which proved exceedingly balmy on a December Sunday in the day, and only chilled enough for a proper coat at night. My Continental Christmas market memories are paella, cerveza and little crib figures with large eyes that now form part of my own personal advent calendar. Yes, there were two medics and a couple of Barcelona footballers present at the birth of Jesus. Along with a man carrying bread and a complete mariachi band. Don’t @ me.
German, Spanish or Mancunian, the joys of a Christmas Market are lost to us all this year. We will not be gathering under the Weinachtspyramide to huddle together cradling spiced mulled wine or filing slowly past chalets piled with chocolate kisses, gingerbread or wooden decorations. Or the cheaper, mass-produced jewellery and tat (as my Grandmother would describe it) that sometimes fills the UK markets. Dolphin posters and crystal drops that feel disappointingly plastic in the hand. What can we do instead?
Well, today I am travelling virtually instead of actually. I will, as you read this, probably be sat sipping some mulled wine, watching a youtube video of a walk through Cologne’s Old Town Market and nibbling gingerbread… bought, or homemade, I’m not fussy, and remembering markets past with my Little Me, no longer so little, Sarah. She does have the advantage of having been to Cologne, so the video will be watched, discussed and enjoyed.
And the food will be market food as well. A sausage for lunch, possibly with fries and curry sauce, and either pulled pork sandwiches for tea, served with stuffing, gravy, softened onions and a dollop of apple sauce, or if we’re feeling adventurous a large dish of paella, served and eaten off our knees as we settle down for the evening.
And there will be a walk outside as well. A couple of hours around the neighbourhood as dusk falls with the thermometer until our noses and eartops buzz with the cold before we come home, rubbing hands and cheeks to warm them and settle into cosy chairs, under even cosier throws, with the cosiest hot chocolates to warm us up. In short, we will spend the day together eating, drinking and remembering hygge moments we have had, while anticipating hygge moments yet to be. This year there will be a lot of nostalgic anticipation going on. What else can we do, when so much has been cancelled or runs a risk of not happening at short notice?
Finally, as the evening draws in I will read a book set at a Christmas market. I read Finding Love at The Christmas Market by Jo Thomas the other week, and really loved it, so I may settle down with Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market by Heidi Swain instead. And, as my head drift asleep I will dream of snow and mistletoe, and just a little, little more gingerbread…..
Daily Read: 10 of the Best European Christmas Markets. From 2018, but good enough to keep you dreaming. Meet me in Prague Old Square in December 2021…
Daily Book: What? You need another book recommendation after the two in the post already? Okay, how about The Country Village Christmas Show by Cathy Lake, Highly recommended by Phillipa Ashley and Heidi Swain and bound to feature hot chocolate and mulled wine.
Self Care Act of the Day: Go on, give yourself a break. Take half an hour at least off to read a book and sip a mug of something hot. I read daily, except when I’m stressed or ill. In fact, me not giving myself time or permission to read is usually a sign that I need to slow down and look after myself. Give yourself permission to indulge. Not a reader? Take half an hour to do something else relaxing. You know you deserve to.
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 rhings 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 to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, however we get to celebrate it this year, and a Happy, Healthy and Simple New Year.