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 play 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 Renewal and Cycles.
One of the best and worst (simultaneously) things about Christmas is that it just is so repetitive. It’s great, in that it can actually take very little thinking to do Christmas in the same way as you did last year and the year before: just do it on auto pilot: same events, same decorations. I mean, in the UK the traditional Christmas dinner is essentially the same meal every year for some high percentage of the population. Since Charles Dickens and his turkey twice the size of Tiny Tim, we’ve been stuck with luscious bronzed birds and turkey for a week afterwards. Woe betide me if I suggested to my lot that we don’t have the same meal for Christmas… which feeds into the same meals for Boxing Day and the day after and sometimes the day after that….
Repetition, cycles, can be a great source of comfort. When the children were little, taking time to do the same activities each year made them feel comfortable. We always visited the local Zoo on Boxing Day, we had a visit to Santa beforehand, the run in to Christmas involved school fairs, carol services and family events often with unerring accuracy on the same dates or days in December. It worked well as a countdown to Christmas. I think humans like the safety of sameness. There is nothing to fear in places and things we have done before.
And yet… and yet….
Even when they were small, it was not a good thing to do two years together the same. Not exactly the same, down to meals, days out and everything. Not if we expected to be able to look back and think “Remember when that happened… or when we visited… or when Aunt Sally came to visit.” In that very human contrarian way, we wanted simultaneously to celebrate everything the same way and yet have it feel new. I think we crave the rhythm of routines, but want them to have the spiritual significance of rituals. Our Christmases have to mean something.
That’s where the renewal part of today’s words comes in. We have a very cyclical life: seasons, events, even TV series come and come again regularly in cycles of days, weeks, months and years. We work every day, we sleep every day, we holiday once a year, we celebrate birthdays and Christmas once a year. Whether these events are just another step in our daily drudge or actually mean something to us… that is up to us to decide. We create our rituals and renew our senses in regular events because we need a life that is more than just a circle. When we celebrate Christmas in the same way, but with meaning, we revisit the same place but we ourselves are different. When we put up the tree with the same decorations, plus some new ones we collected over the year, we have a chance to celebrate being a year older, having new experiences that change our role in the world.
Life is cyclical, which means the same things repeated, but it is not a circle. It’s more of a spiral: we walk over the same paths, but we never walk the same journey. The place and scenery may appear to be the same, but the people within it are always different. I am not that which I was this time last year: my experience has been altered, and even were I to go to the same coffee shop on the same day and have the same meal, the person experiencing the event has been so altered by life that it cannot be the same.
Whether we do everything the same, change only a few events or celebrate in a completely different way, being mindful of the cycles and spirals of life means we can always see it afresh. Even were we to do exactly the same this year as last, our personal focus, our attention would be enough to make it a new experience. We give life meaning, even if we choose to let that meaning be life is just the same. And even when we celebrate everything in a completely new way, it works well to have a point of reference, a small thing that we carry with us to ground us and focus us on the fact that life goes on whatever. For some, that may be the people they celebrate with. For others, it may be the familiarity of a Christmas tree ornament, inherited from a Grandmother or donated by a child. Something we hold and through which we feel the passage of years, the changes and the history that we have experienced. Like a red dot on Google maps, it’s a fixed point that secures us in time and place no matter what the rest of the world holds for us.
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 by Stripe Media on Unsplash. I chose it because the branches covered in snow and the simple heart just summed up today’s post action for me.
Today’s Film: Meet Me in St Louis. A year in the life of a family.
Today’s Mindful Action: Make or buy a heart shaped decoration for your tree. This ornament is going to represent all the gifts of love you’ve given and received over the years. Every time you pass the tree, stroke the heart and whisper a prayer of gratitude for all the love in your life.
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 articles in this series are on the blogpost: Mindful Christmas 2021.