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 word is Attention.
I wonder, if we knew what the next year was going to hold in store for us, would we pay more attention or less to our Christmas this year? If, say, we knew that a loved one, currently quite well and bobbling along, was going to fall ill and pass away mid-year, would we want to spend all our time with them, or would the knowledge of the future make every moment so bittersweet we’d find ourselves turning away with the pain?
Would I, had I known I was going to be pregnant by the following Christmas and on maternity leave, have cherished every moment of my last nativity as a teacher, and taken more photographs, sighed more sighs and paid more attention?
Or are we better off not actually knowing that the circumstances of our life are going to alter unbearably, but make allowance for the chance by making sure we pay attention now whether we need to or not? That way we get both the memories of a life well lived and the lack of bitterness, sadness and regret at the moment, even if in retrospect we see those very same memories tinged with a new emotion?
It’s not possible to ‘live every day as if it’s your last’, living to the limits and pushing to do the bucket list items that we are told are the unforgettable moments of life. It wouldn’t be good for your purse, your body or your career. It wouldn’t be good for you: because at some point the Once in a Lifetime event would just become routine. You’d cease to pay attention to it, take it as read, and just go along with it because if it’s Tuesday, it must be Bungee Jumping.
No, to enjoy every Christmas as if it were your last is not to race off to Lapland, chase every golden ticket for the must-have shows and spend your days racing from theatre to film to ice rink to the edge of reason. It’s to do less, but do it with your whole self. To really pay attention, to focus on the small, the intimate, the special. Not 24/7, not all day every day. That’s a recipe for madness. But to give yourself a pause in the day, a moment to stop, look around at where you are and who you are with and to set this as a golden memory.
Take a friend or relative by the hand and focus on listening to them 100%. Soak in the senses: how they smell, how they sound, what their hand feels like. Look at their eyes, their smile, their wrinkles or spots or small imperfections that make us who we are. Store these moments in the secret spaces of your heart, like Mary did.
Put on your film of the day and set everything else aside: watch it with 100% of your attention. Don’t fold washing, don’t ice biscuits with it on in the background. Watch it like you’ve never watched it before. Or pick up your current book, craft or magazine. Give it your full attention. Sense it, feel it, remember it with every sense you have.
I wish sometimes I’d remembered to set the ordinary things as memories rather than the extraordinary. It’s easy to remember the special days: exciting days set off hormones in the body like oxytocin and endorphines. You remember weddings, giving birth, winning quizzes. You remember bad days, as well. But those quiet, ordinary days of sitting sipping tea with your friend, playing Monopoly with the kids or walking along the same path you walk every day en route to work or school or the shops… those days slip by.
And when the sad things happen…. the family fall out, the unexpected illness, the sudden bereavement…. you will have the happy memories of ordinary moments past to help you through.
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 Aaron Burden on Unsplash. It’s a close up of a snowflake… yes, I know, a snow day would be routine for some people but in the UK would be an absolute magic moment to live in the memory. I chose this because our lives are like snowfall: from a distance, the day seems full of the same thing again and again and again, routine event upon routine event. It’s not until we pay attention that we see the uniqueness of each day. Like a snowflake, together they give the blanket of a life well-lived, but individually each moment is magical. If we had world’s enough, and time.
Today’s Film: The Family Stone. Be warned, it’s a weepie, and not good for anyone facing imminent loss through illness.
Today’s Mindful Action: Today’s film is a weepie, and a reminder that even as/if we lose others, Christmas (and life) goes on. Use today to remember those you have lost. Find a photo of them, set it up with a candle, perhaps a small keepsake that reminds you of them, and toast them with your meal. The people we love are never really lost to us as long as we remember them.
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.