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 Consumption and Indulgence.
On their own, consumption and indulgence are not bad things. We all have to consume stuff: food, clothes, housing and furniture. A life free from consumption would be a very bare life indeed. Our problems start when consumption becomes over-consumption, and our occasional indulgences become over-indulgence, no matter what we’re indulging in. Too much of a good thing may be wonderful, as Mae West put it, but it’s not good for us or the planet.
The Modern West’s relationship to stuff might still be best summed up as Conspicuous Consumption. We buy stuff to display our status. We buy cars for their kudos, houses for their location, food and holidays and more to be able to claim ownership and demonstrate that we are Top Dog.
People do this, and so do governments. It’s like we have to prove to others that we are the best and the only way we know how is by putting our wealth on display. You have a small car? Oh really? We have a much bigger one, and a spare for the wife. You have nuclear weapons? Really. We have them, too, and on submarines. You have a fancy palace with gold toilets in? Oh, really. We have… well. No. There comes a point when the competition needs to stop. Nobody needs a gold-encrusted toilet. Nobody. Even if you’re a God or a demi-god or just a very spoilt world leader.
And, of course, Christmas is the season of conspicuous consumption. It’s the time of year when we are encouraged to spend (often more than we earn) to show how much we love this season of peace and goodwill. When we’re enticed to buy food until it overflows our tables, drink until it overpours the glasses and presents for everyone we have ever met. TV, radio, newspapers and magazines all carry the message, very much in your face, that we need to buy THIS for Christmas or THIS or THIS… and God forbid we forget to have THIS in the house.
You can see how the pressure is put on by watching how light displays in private homes have changed over the years. Where once would have been the sole Christmas tree of the house stood in the window with a single string of sad fairylights twinkling because the plug needed a new fuse, now there is a tree in every window, or strings of lights suspended over every bush in the garden or large inflatable figures waving slowly in the wind while moulded plastic Father Christmases line the path and plastic snowmen play plastic carols on a never-ending loop.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Christmas lights and I love seeing the displays people put out… but I can’t help worrying about the green credentials of the lights, or the cost to the family or even just whether having one person on the street go overboard puts the pressure on everyone else to do the same. We just have so much stuff, we do so much stuff, we consume so much stuff and a lot of it is non-recyclable or single use. We no longer have the excuse of ignorance, either. We can’t blithely buy a new set of decorations each year, shipped from China, made from plastic produced from oil and pride ourselves on getting free delivery and a recycled box to put them in. I can’t help worrying that we’ve let ourselves be dragged into a performance of Christmas, powered by TV shows like Holiday Home Makeover or any Hallmark Christmas movie. Perhaps it’s time to step off the Christmas Merry-go-round.
We will still be consuming… but consciously. We will still have indulgence… but in moderation.
This year, choose a different mantra for your home. Choose Less is More, choose natural, choose greenery is green. Don’t do something because you’ve always done it that way: think about it, and choose the way of less. Save your time and money to spend elsewhere. Cut back on food during the start of December to have a mad blow-out over Christmas week (next year, cut back from October onwards to add extra benefit to your blow-out). Find indulgences that don’t cost you or the planet. Rethink your relationship to plastic. Just… think.
And the golden toilet at half price at B and Q? No. Not at all.
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 Davies Designs Studio on Unsplash. It’s quite a plain background, but I chose it for today because there really are few man-made decorations that can compete with nature for really catching the true spirit of Christmas. The smell of pine, the texture of snow, the complex simplicity of a pine cone. Think less is more.
Today’s Film: Deck The Halls. A competition between two neighbours to see whose house has the most lights pretty much sums up the modern world. The competition to have the Best Christmas Ever is over. Good enough will always do.
Today’s Mindful Action: Have a low-tech, low-consumption night, even if you’re too late to cut back on decorations this year (yes, I know: I should have put a warning out mid-November). Turn off the lights, light the candles, have stew or soup in front of the fire, play board games, walk in the woods. See how little you need to consume to be happy.
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.