For the past five years I have practiced curmudgeonry – the very proud act of being a curmudgeon – during the end-of-year holidays. I was 17 when I discovered minimalism, developed an obsession to get rid of most of my belongings, and then began to boycott (with much teenage angst) the “celebration” of December 25th. I boycotted presents, singing holiday music, hanging ornaments, and wearing ugly sweaters, and tried to boycott attending every gathering on our calendar. Thankfully, my parents wouldn’t have the latter, and so, I would begrudgingly attend the potlucks.
Though the materialistic aspect of the holiday was nearly unavoidable, I was fortunate enough to receive love and joy in every room at said gatherings. In fact, all cynicism I had built up prior to Thanksgiving melted off of my shoulders the moment I stepped inside my Grandmother’s house. The clinking of mugs filled with fresh, stout coffee; the soft turn of a Willie Nelson vinyl playing in the corner; my cousin Courtney’s homemade pumpkin pie; the fire in the living room dancing in rhythm to the laughter from every pocket of the two bedroom house. All Scrooge-like thoughts and perhaps even some of that angst would momentarily melt. And though the fireplace was always lit, the warmth generated inside the house never came solely from the yule log.
The Danish have a term for these moments, which are heated and fueled not necessarily by one thing, but by an abstract and holistic experience, called hygge (pronounced hoo-guh). Hygge is “a state of mind where you are capable of momentarily suspending all worries and, despite being well aware of their existence, exist for the moment in the knowledge that, while the future is uncertain, this particular moment is perfect, and will remain so in memory, no matter what the future may bring. Such perfect moments for me have included meeting an old friend for coffee; reading a fine book under a blanket on a rainy afternoon; and the day of Christmas, minus the stressors leading up to it, with not a care in the world, and truly celebrating in the moment.
I’ve been blessed for the past two seasons working at Shaver’s Creek, for it seems that each day, the people here find something to celebrate. And even more, they so often are open to sharing these celebrations with others—from this year’s Children’s Halloween Trail with its prominent theme “how nature continues to inspire the celebration of Halloween;” each Kids Corner offered this fall, celebrating different intricacies of our natural world; and now the longest night of the year and the reign of a new season: the Winter Solstice.
This past week, the interns have been in charge of their own celebrations as well. We’ve been on a quest to take back the sun sets (not yet motivated for the sun rises), the night sky, the morning walks from our Roost to the Center, and a handful of potlucks. As the winter solstice and the end of a season near, the natural world appears to be slowing down. We, too, have been attempting to slow down enough to remember the art of mosey and to embrace the challenge of whole-heartedly enjoying life’s simple pleasures.
There’s certainly no shortage of such pleasures: the deep warmth of a wood stove, the language of tracks in the snow, the return of our beloved feeder birds, the reveal of this year’s winter fate as told by the Persimmon seed. It is with intention we have been enjoying and celebrating. Being intentional with taking back the holiday, removing stressors, and creating more hygge before our group closes.
My Grandmother, my own sage, shared a piece of simplistic hope last night: “I’m having a hard time with this getting older and not feeling like doing things. Sounds like you are enjoying the Christmas time. That is good; I think it is a very special time of year. We all have blessings that we need to remember. When I want to quit enjoying, I remember how much my daughter loved the Christmas time. And that I loved it, too. So I will keep trying to enjoy and I hope you will too. I love you so much and I want you to enjoy all that life has to offer.”
“To enjoy all that life has to offer.” There’s plenty to enjoy this winter, one simply needs to be open to celebrate. If you’re having trouble, I’ll pass along advice from Byrd Baylor, the woman who wrote I’m in Charge of Celebrations:
Friend, I’ll tell you how it works.
I keep a notebook and I write the date and then I write
about the celebration.
I’m very choosy over what goes in that book.
It has to be something I plan to remember the rest of my life.
You can tell what’s worth a celebration because your heart
will POUND and you’ll feel like you’re standing on top of a
mountain and you’ll catch your breath like you were
breathing some new kind of air.
Working at Shaver’s Creek often feels like standing on top of a mountain, where I have an avenue and an opportunity to share my passion with others, and where all of my cohorts can share their passions with me. And so, here I am, celebrating the Christmas season this year, cutting up paper snowflakes, humming holiday songs, watching classic cartoons, and enjoying every bit of it. I give my thanks to Shaver’s Creek for helping me take back the holiday season — every day can be a celebration when you’re doing the things you love and when you’re surrounding yourself with the people you love.
This holiday, and each day, you’re in charge of celebrations. Do what you love this winter and take time to bring some hygge into your life.