IT’S COMING PEOPLE! CHRISTMAS IS ON IT’S WAY! I don’t want to panic you or appear overly dramatic, but it cannot be denied. Halloween is over and done with, Bonfire Night is a distant memory and people are gearing up for the Big Ho Ho Ho. Shops are filling up with suspiciously smug customers who have already made a dent in their gift lists, fairy lights are popping up like festive moles all over the bloody place and I have already seen one child walking to school in a Santa hat. People are starting to get excited and there is a whiff of festivity in the air.
Honestly, I can’t say I’m enjoying to that much. I am one of those grouchy grinches who repeatedly insists that there are only 12 days of Christmas and not one of them is in November. I’ve already spent countless hours wordlessly screaming into the black void of Christmas music and I’ve had to haggle hard with some work colleagues to keep the festive radio station playing to a minimum (we’ve compromised on an hour a day until December 1st, though this has already been ignored and Tuesday was a whole day of Mariah Carey and Wizzard). I have also categorically refused to even touch the wrapping this year, but thankfully TMM has take my childish refusal with good grace and tackled the ever growing pile with a positive attitude and a healthy amount of recycled brown packaging paper. I have deigned to come from my lofty heights to make a couple of pompoms for decoration, but that’s it.
Look how cute these are. Though be aware, this is just a fraction. The whole left hand side of the living room is lost to the Present Pile now.
It is unavoidable though, and no matter how much I bury my head in the snow, the undeniable seasonal cheer is seeping in. Various Christmas adverts insist on thrusting themselves into my eye line despite the fact I never actually watch live TV anymore, and I’ve witnessed the Kevin the Carrot hysteria second hand. Apparently Aldi were forced to put a limit of no more than two carrot families per person (though god knows why anybody wants that many stuffed felt carrots, as they will undoubtedly end up in a cupboard or under the bed within two months before making their way forlornly to various charity shops/bins before this decade is out). I do have to admit to possibly encouraging the craze and agreeing to make a baby carrot toy for one of the girls at work, which in itself was a challenge. Never having crocheted before I feel maybe a carrot was a tad ambitious, but after 1 broken crochet hook, countless swear words and some near misses with tears of frustration, I was able to gift him as promised and apparently he is now much loved. To be honest I think he looks a little like he’s screaming, but as long as she’s happy with him, it’s all gravy.
It’s not a great photo, but I still can’t help but think he looks like a carrot version of The Scream. As long as someone loves him though.
It’s coming up to the time of festive traditions though, as people start to talk about their Christmas routines and everyone starts to fall into the same old patterns of preparing for the big day. We had the ultimate pleasure of taking Molly to the local Christmas Fair (one of my favourite events) and boy am I glad we don’t have to do that again for a few months. She tutted her way round the stalls complaining loudly about the lack of local people (despite the fact that it was the busiest I’d ever seen it), pushed in front of various other elderly people without any regard for social convention (though thankfully in her excitement she missed the Tombolo which really is more trouble than it’s worth) and spent a truly repulsive amount of money at the jam stall. She evilly eyed up the woman with the golden charity bucket, who despite being there every damn year is apparently a complete stranger (Molly insisted on repeatedly saying to her “I don’t know who you are”) and griped about the coffee being stone cold (but refused to let us get her a fresh cup). By the time we got her back to her house, both of the other couples that look after her had turned up (a fortuitous event that has never before happened). We all had to have photos and the she got completely overwhelmed and just shouted at everyone until we all went home. A truly festive afternoon.
I have heard of some rather more positive seasonal traditions though, which I think would be much nicer to adhere to (no offence to the local Christmas Fair, obvs). There are a lot of European and Scandinavian practices that have popped on my Facebook feed over the last few years that I would love to adopt. This year, a lot of people have been pointing me towards an Icelandic tradition that is part of a season called Jolabokflod (Jólabókaflóð) which roughly translates to “The Christmas Book Flood”. Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country and sells most of its books between September and November in preparation for the upcoming holiday. This has led to people exchanging books as presents on Christmas Eve and spending the rest of the night snuggled up reading them and snacking on festive foods. Obviously this speaks to me on a rather emotional level and TMM has already made the executive decision to appropriate this idea this year (I can’t say I’m too upset).
I’ve also seen articles relating to a movement in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where people purchase new coats and leave them tied around lamp posts and packed safely on benches for homeless people with notes tied to them that say “I am not lost! If you are stuck out in the cold, please take me to keep warm”. Austrians also like to help, and apparently buy extra Christmas trees to leave outside their houses to ensure the local wildlife has a nice festively themed haven. If these don’t warm your heart, I don’t know what will.
Denmark and Norway have given us Hygge, a massively on trend movement that thrives well in the wintery season. All about comfort and relaxation, it’s there to help away fight away the winter blues and seasonal low moods. It’s all about the aesthetic; including lots of heart shapes decorations (which will please my mum no end) earthy colours and natural textures – bringing in some much needed greenery inside for the holidays. If you’re looking for a cosy little Christmas, you don’t need much more than a little bit of Jolabokflod and Hygge (which sounds like a great law firm).
The last one I’ve seen recently which I thought was cute is a Nordic folklore about the Nisse/Tomte, which in very rudimentary terms is basically a Christmas goblin. Originating in pre-Christian times, it is a spirit that looks like a little gnome or gonk and is often linked specifically to a family or clan, thought to be of the farmer who originally cleared the land to live on. Believed to possibly be derived from Norse niðsi which translates “dear little relative”, they live in the homestead and act as a guardian. They will look after the family and animals and protect from misfortune, but are short tempered and easily offended – they will steal stuff or kill life stock and basically they will eff shiz up if you don’t treat them properly. However, over time their legends have evolved and they are now widely linked to Christmas. Their purpose and appearance has been heavily influenced by the commercialised ideas of Father Christmas and they now visit houses to deliver gifts to worthy souls. I like the notion of a little house spirit keeping an eye on things and enjoying the festivities as much as the next romantic.
Not to be a lefty snowflake (though I suppose it is the season after all) but I would like as much European influence this Christmas as possible. It’s a time for celebration and coming together (I feel the urge to burst into song) and with everything that’s going on elsewhere, I think it’s important to share our histories and traditions before they’re lost. And let’s face it, anything that keeps me in the mood has got to be worth it.