November is a bizarre month in so many ways. It’s easy to overlook it, given that it’s bookended by the manic partying of Halloween at one end and the month long celebration of Christmas at the other. I suspect Americans have it slightly better, given that there is the chance of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of the month if they celebrate it.
In the UK we have no such useful celebrations any more, having turned our backs on Bonfire Night and Martinmas as worthy of notice. When I was younger, Bonfire Night was a much bigger celebration than Halloween. Lads, the ones who could cause trouble just crossing the classroom, would purloin an old jumper of their Dad’s and a pair of Mum’s America Tan tights (hopefully holy before they took them, but definitely by the time they finished) and stuff them with crumpled newspapers, pillowcase head and roughly drawn face (paper plate, in a middle class area: hopeful lipstick direct on to the pillow if not) and pull it on the roughly made carts that passed for a go-kart then from house to house begging “Penny for the Guy, Mister?” Very Dickensian.
The last Guy I saw being hawked around the streets was two years ago by a family of children who were obviously fresh to the country. They sat outside the Poundshop, repeating the words that echoed from the past and looking disconsolate as people walked past. They’d obviously looked up British Customs on the web or in a book and picked up on this one as a good scheme, goodness knows where from. I sort of faintly hope that somewhere in Syria or Lybia they’d sat listening to Just William or Horrid Henry and had an image of a kinder England that bears no resemblance to modern life. Which responsible middle class mother would dare let their children out the house to walk unaided to the shops, let alone sit at the doorway for hours until patience or cold wore thin. Another dream of England shattered. The family weren’t there this year. I hope they’ve found a permanent home, and started their own traditions that are a curious mix of what they did back home and what they do in this country. Bless them they needed some luck.
And Martinmas, traditionally a time for eating goose and remembering St Martin of Tours, was overtaken by Remembrance Day. Ironic, since St Martin was a soldier, who turned his back on earthly warfare to fight for Christ. Patron Saint of outcasts and beggars, he cut his cloak in half to cover a beggarman he met, and never looked back. His feast, falling usefully between Michaelmas and Midwinter, was a useful staging post in an agrarian year run along liturgical lines. It became the time for slaughtering big lifestock that wasn’t to be kept over winter, the last day of harvests and the first day of Winter so traditions arose about feasting and celebrations. The Irish Times has a useful article about many of these here. I knew about the link between St Martin’s Day and geese, but I hadn’t heard about the St Martin’s Summer, nor the linking of the two with the dispersal by spiders of fine threads as their population spreads in the wind. The Goose Summer threads came to signify something fine and delicate, and shortened (as language does) to Gossamer.
I will remember St Martin, and all soldiers, today as I usually do. War seems an inevitable part of human nature, mean and horrible and destructive as it is. I suspect it will always happen somewhere, and that only fear stops most European countries from always finding a place to claim as theirs, truly. I hope our fargile peace agreements keep going, and that people affected by war across the world find space and peace to recover. As in most acts of anger or revenge, it’s young men who lose their lives most in warfare. And women who are left behind to take on the burden. I hope they all find support and strength to do what they need to.
I especially remember my Grandad, Leslie Sills, who died on 9th May 1944 in the Italian Campaign of World War II. I know my Nanna said she never needed Remembrance Day to think on him, as every day was a day of missing him, wondering what life would have been like if he returned and working hard to keep her and her family safe, warm and fed.
Who will you be remembering today?
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 to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
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. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. 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:
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. It has daily, weekly and monthly ideas for ways to craft a life that supports you in living happier.
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.
And how to Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas? Christmas is about the small things in life, much as hygge is, and establishing what you want from Christmas and then being able to say no to the excess is important. The book has hints and tips that hopefully will help you enjoy what is, too often, a frantic season.
Available as just an ebook, and a short, sharp read, is Enjoying a Self-Care Christmas: Easy Ways to keep the Joy of Christmas, and your Sanity, intact. It’s an easy read, with ideas and hints to keep you sane through the season. The self-care advent calendar is one I’ve followed for a few years now, and it really is a small daily dose of calm in a manic month.
And on the basis that we may well find ourselves in Lockdowns or unable to enjoy an absolutely normal Christmas under Covid regulations if numbers spike, why not read and plan alternatives? Celebrating a Contagious Christmas was written in response to the pandemic last year, and will need updating soon, but it is about celebrating whatever the situation, and does have good advice on stocking up an emergency cupboard, celebrating when travelling to relatives is impossible and putting the heart of Christmas back into the heart of the celebrations.
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.
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