Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, has always been a very special time for me. My mother, long before the Danish concept of "hygge" was a trend and slow living was a movement, incorporated an array of wonderful traditions into these grey winter days and had a knick of making these weeks very memorable.
Now, that I have two little ones of my own, I try to do the same. This is my wish for them: My babies, I want you to enjoy Christmas and the cold winter days, as a magical, warm time filled with connection and simple joys, rather than writing endless lists to Santa about which consumer items you'd like to receive.
In one of my favorite German Christmas carol the second verse goes like this:
In dem Herzen ist's warm, still schweigt Kummer und Harm, Sorge des Lebens verhallt: Freue Dich, Christkind kommt bald
In our hearts we feel warm
Free from worries and harm
Cares of life fade far away
Come soon dear Christ-Child, we pray!
That to me is really the essence of this time. But how does this translate into a fast paced world, where everyone is running around hastily to get all errands done before the Holidays?
For me it is about rituals and togetherness. These are a few things we do during Advent, to fill our lives with some extra hygge:
Candles, lights and the scent of spruce
Always, a fan of candlelight, I really lay the candlelight on thick during Advent. I have candles in every possible spot, where the kids can't reach them and then some on the table, where they can reach them. This way, we can light them together first thing in the morning and enjoy the soft warm light during our cozy breakfasts. I'm a big believer in teaching children safety around candles and fire early on, instead of opting for LED's. There's just something to be said for real candlelight - the softness, the crackling, the smell when you blow it out. It is all part of the magic.
Besides, lighting the candles, I start out our mornings by putting some spruce or pine scent into my essential oil diffuser to fill the house with the smells of Christmas.
Almost every evening, after it gets dark, I pack up the kids in the stroller and we walk around our neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. It is wonderful to walk the quiet streets and see the lights of the Christmas trees shimmering through curtains and blinds and to wonder what festive preparations are being made inside. It winds us down for bedtime and it fills my lungs with the fresh crisp air and it feels so good.
Of sheepskin and cozy corners
We don't have our own Christmas tree this year, as we are traveling back to Europe for the holidays, but I put up our homemade tipi in the living room instead, filled it with sheepskins and decorated it with string lights. A wonderful nook to play, read and snuggle.
It is finally cold enough in Texas to add our sheepskins onto our dining room chairs again, as well as add some wool blankets onto our linen bedding. Christmas time to me is all about feeling those soft materials and to feel warm and cozy.
Tomte Tumetott and other winter stories
Advent is the perfect time for stories. Wether it's stories from our own childhood, or old stories from our grandparents that we can share now with the kids. Ours are still a bit to small to dwell in anecdotes, but my husband and I share stories about Christmas traditions and fond memories. Just last night, we asked our dinner guests to share their favorite Christmas stories with us.
In December, I put all of Smilla's and Winter's books away and replace them with a few Christmas books that we continue to acquire over time. Most of them, still from our own childhood. I try to read stories about winter, snow and Christmas time every day to them. Wether it is the actual nativity story (which I think is important for them to learn about, no matter where you stand in terms of faith), or cute books about winter. Later, I can't wait to share Christmas traditions around the world and holidays throughout the different faiths with them. This year it makes me squeal with joy, that Smilla is old enough to enjoy my collection of Astrid Lindgrens Christmas stories. The one were Pippi Longstocking is wearing a christmas tree on her head bringing cheer to little Pelle, Bosse and Inga is her favorite.
Oh Tannenbaum! and other songs
This is the perfect time for music. All day long our vinyl player is spinning our three Christmas records on repeat. In the evenings, EVERY NIGHT, before bed, we come together as a family and sing our favorite Christmas carols. Smilla, although not even three, can sing most tunes with us now. It is by far my favorite seasonal bedtime routine.
Crafts, baking, and the wonderful scent of orange slices
What a perfect time for daily crafts. It is not something fancy every day. Some afternoons, we simply draw on paper. Some days though, we go all out and craft starts, snowmen and other symbols of the season. I think one day I'd like to pop corn and string the popcorn - maybe next year, when we will have our own christmas tree again. I did make a garland of orange slices again this year. Although, it immediately attacked bee's (!) - in December - oh Texas.
While I haven't done very much baking this season, we have decorated a few gingerbread cookies. Well, I have decorated and Smilla was very focused on licking the frosting.
Once we travel to Germany I would love to bake some more traditional cookies of my childhood and have Smilla at it with the cookie cutters.
In the end, it is important that you don't feel obligated to do any certain number of Christmassy things. If you hate baking, don't feel obliged. That's when it becomes stressful and overwhelming.
Find what you can fit easily into your daily routine. Create a simple daily habit for the whole family to enjoy and count down the days until Christmas.
Have a peaceful time.