Anticipation and Preparation: Mindful Christmas Day 1

December’s posts this year all share the theme of Mindful Christmas. There’ll be short posts each day encouraging us to pause and look at our celebrations in a more measured, mindful way. Every day has a concept heavily tied in to Christmas, and the plan is to look at them individually, examine what role they plan in our own Christmas and, if we decide we don’t have enough of the secret ingredient, what we can do to have more of them. You’ll see what I mean as the month goes on.

Each day also includes a suggested film for the day and a mindful action, something small, fast and designed to give you the opportunity to pause and enjoy the season in its mad run down to The Day Itself. These are the films and ideas written in my advent calendar box, so I’ll be watching and acting alongside.

Today’s words are Anticipation and Preparation.

Both of these play a big part in my Christmas. They’re two halves of the same coin. We prepare with anticipation, we build anticipation by getting prepared. Children would feel so much less anticipation for Christmas if we didn’t prepare them by writing letters to Santa, taking them to fetch the tree, put it up, find a perfect gift for a friend or relative. The act of one leads to the feeling of the other. Problems arise when we concentrate on one to the detriment of the other.

I like to have as much preparation done as possible by today. Please don’t laugh or look aghast, but by today (1st December) I usually plan to have my present shopping done, to have planned my decoration scheme for the house or tree, to have dates on the diary for days out, visits, friends, and a myriad other small organisational details done. I have my wrapping paper ready in a corner of the dining room, complete with a small mountain of wrapping tape, ribbon and tags. A lot of the treats for the season or their ingredients have been bought in and squirrelled away in the pantry, my pudding (whether homemade or shop bought) sits in a basket with stuffing mix and bread sauce packets ready to use on Christmas Day.

Planning ahead has always been my way of making sure that I don’t reach Christmas Day with all my Christmas spirit seeped away by the queues and stresses of December in a mad dash to get ready. I need space to anticipate the season properly, and creating and honouring that space in time and location is part of my mindful Christmas. My Mum was a teacher all her working life. She taught five year olds, and every year delivered a full-volume Christmas at school, with Nativity play or pantomime, parties, stories, work and more to a class of excited and noisy five year olds before coming home to start again with her own four children.

Christmas was a season of work: all her usual work and then extra. She spent a lot of time in preparation, but blessed little in anticipation. Even at home, she was cooking, shopping, cleaning, busy, busy, busy. No wonder her Christmas memories are kitchen-based, or tinted with the memories of tiredness and fraught emotions. She may have given us all the joy of anticipating a magic Christmas, but at what cost to herself?

I know that now my Mum’s best Christmas is one she doesn’t have to prepare for at all. One where someone else cooks the meal, does the shopping, cleans the house and decorates (but only if they agree to come round and take it all down again). She still hasn’t got the hang of anticipation… but at least she doesn’t have the heavy cloud of preparation work hanging over her any more.

I don’t think you can have one without the other. Anticipating the season without doing anything to get ready is unfair. It’s passing all the work and stress on to another human being. Preparing for the season without taking time to anticipate a good time ahead is drudgery. We’re all entitled to take five, to pause and to look forward to some reward for all our work. As this month starts, whether you’re practically prepared or not, make sure to take time to anticipate the days ahead. For most of us, that anticipation will be joyous. For those of us who have been bereaved, are ill or facing other worries this year, the anticipation is not so clear cut. Find something, some small part of Christmas that you love, and anticipate that. It may be the Festival of Nine Lessons on Radio 4 on Christmas Eve, or it may be the walk to the post box past houses lit up and displaying their trees. It may be just five minutes a day or week to sit silently and sip a cup of tea. Whatever: make whatever preparations you need to, and then anticipate that pleasure. Take the break that suits you best, and enjoy it with your whole body and mind. Respect your needs this month. Why not? You deserve it.

All the quotes this month share the same background, even if the headers are all different. Thanks go to Caley Dimmock on Unsplash for a very seasonal background ideal for all quotes, large and small. And today’s header is a photo by freestocks on Unsplash. I chose it because I like the story: for me, the woman is pausing in the middle of a busy shopping spree. She’s treated herself to her favourite drink, possibly a gingerbread chai or a black forest hot chocolate, and she’s enjoying it guilt free. In the midst of her preparations, she has stopped to be mindful, to live in the present moment and to anticipate the joys of Christmas ahead. May we all be so lucky.

Today’s Film: Little Women. Any version of this story would probably do, but I am faithful to the 1995 version with Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon. And Christian Bale. I like the characters and the interplay, and also the whole film has a great New England feel.

Today’s Mindful Action: Start a Food Bank advent calendar, also known as a reverse advent calendar. Keep a box or bag next to the front door or in the kitchen and add a tin or packet to it every day. You could ask your local food bank for items they’re low on, as well. Stuff like sanitary products, razors or toothbrushes are very welcome.

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’s filled with advice on a daily, weekly and annual basis to help you set up rituals and rhythms that boost happiness and work for you.

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.

Of course Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas is an essential read at this time of year. 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.

A (Hygge) Christmas Carol is my personal look at Dicken’s Immortal Classic through the eyes of a Christmas obsessive and hygge lover. It includes the full text of the book, as well as my short essays on why A Christmas Carol is a book full of hygge. I have no idea why, but Kindle version and paperback are on different pages.

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.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading, thinking about and living hygge as well, and links to all the posts are on the blogpost: Mindful Christmas 2021

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