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 Nostalgia.
Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, according to the joke. And, in actual fact, the definition has changed somewhat from its original one of debilitating and upsetting homesickness to a (sometimes) light and fluffy remembrance of things past, and not necessarily our own past. Think of the fondness for Victorian carol singers, for 1930s murder mysteries set at Christmas, for 1950s historical drama that headline Christmas Day TV in the UK. For any historical drama and romance, actually. We look back at the good old days of 1950s midwifery in Call the Midwife, appreciate the honest cameraderie of mine workers in Poldark and feel the frisson of excitement at Peaky Blinders’ gangsters of Brum.
Of course, none of them are real life as it actually happened. My mother, born in 1941, has very few romantic memories of her childhood, and a lot to say about the lack of provisions, the tightly enforced social rules and the sadness that growing up fatherless (Grandad died in the war) at a time when Father went to work and Mother stayed home and cooked brought, since she was never collected from school by her own mother, learned early on to cook and clean the house for the two of them and had to wait alone until lunchtime on Saturday when my Nan, who worked as a Personal Assistant to a local hospital Psychiatrist, finished for the week and they went off to enjoy a brief half day of freedom. Sunday, in Mum’s memory, was a day spent walking to and from Church for Morning Service, afternoon Sunday School and Evening Service before Monday came around and brought school again.
And yet…. and yet…. The older she gets, the more I think Mum looks back at her life with rose-coloured spectacles. She indulges the nostalgic feelings now and again. Usually with me, because everybody else of her generation is gone, or lives far away. Of over 20 cousins (I lose count), Mum is one of the last four standing. And that looks set to drop before too long, as her cousin in Australia has gone into end of life care. So I step in, and talk St Helens of the 1950s with her, about the great Aunts and Uncles, some I met, some I didn’t, and the stories of her past and Nan’s past that I heard as a child and now remember ever so slightly less well each year.
The cinema where they spent Saturday afternoons has gone. The Basket Market where fish and fresh food vied for space with crockery and clothing went a while ago. Her school has gone, her college where she trained as a teacher. She’s described these places to me a thousand times and I could walk the path blindfolded if I need to, but they exist only in her memories and my mind’s eye.
And my own nostalgia, too, for times past, grows with each passing year. Christmas in the 1970s was so much better than it is now: the TV was funnier, the presents better wrapped, the music so much more tuneful…. I jest. I remember my Christmases of my childhood fondly and with nostalgia for what was, for me, a more innocent time. But I prefer life now. I know the past is beguiling, and I choose not to live in it. I respect the role my childhood played in making me, and I do like a good wallow in nostalgia now and again, but life has never stayed still for me. That’s the great quality of womanhood. My body, my life, my inner self never stays static. I am altered by the changing stages of a woman’s life. We all have memories, and mine are my own, sacred foundations of the woman I am now. I wouldn’t change that for anything.
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 Toa Heftiba on Unsplash. I chose it because of the composition (I’m a sucker for a good flatlay) but also because what it shows are the things that would make me nostalgic: a favourite drink from childhood, a favourite treat, the smell of the tree and the feel of decorations made from pinecones.
Today’s Film: Miracle on 34th Street. Either version is good, but I love the 1994 version because as well as the nostalgia of a 90s film hooked on nostalgia itself (look at those clothes that Susan Walker wears!) there is the personal nostalgia of my eldest son loving the first half hour of the film, and standing jumping as only a toddler can and shouting ‘Manny!’ at Richard Attenborough’s Kris Kringle.
Today’s Mindful Action: Make your home smell like Christmas. Give it a quick polish and clean, then simmer oranges, cloves, cinnamon and star anise in a pan on the stove for a few hours. Keep the water topped up, or the acrid smell of burning will not be nice! If cinnamon and orange is not the smell of your childhood, find something that is, and enjoy a brief interlude smelling it. Scent has powerful links to our memory, so it’s an easy way to access your nostalgia.
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.