A few years ago I read a book about the Danish concept of hygge, which roughly translates to coziness or charm or, I don’t know, specialness. Hard to pin down and harder to say—aim for a Viking horn–like “HYOO-guh”—the concept nevertheless stayed with me for putting a name to a kind of cozy contentment I’d experienced before and kept trying to recapture, most notably at Christmas.
Hygge is the predominant emotion of the holidays. Nursing a mug of hot cocoa, gazing at the Christmas tree lights, cuddling under blankets to watch Elf are all hard-core hygge. Also hygge: doing those things with other people. Along with the physical warmth (crackling fires! blankets!), hygge denotes an emotional warmth, part of what we feel when we’re with loved ones or a part of a community. More than any other time of year, the holidays invite us to seek connection with our community.
Try a suggestion or two from this holiday Love Where You Live list, and have yourself a hygge little Christmas.
1. Invite a neighbor to dinner.
2. Attend one of your town’s holiday events: the Christmas parade, the tree lighting, the gingerbread house competition.
3. Buy a Christmas gift from someone with whom you can have a conversation (like a local shop owner, or a maker at an art fair).
4. Invite a friend for a Christmas cookie-baking marathon—or the slightly lazier Christmas movie-watching marathon.
5. Go caroling to your neighbors.
6. Attend a holiday sing-along.
7. Host a Christmas Eve potluck, or a post-Christmas game night.
8. Take a walk with a friend, even if it’s cold.
9. Attend a Christmas church service.
10. Volunteer somewhere in your town that needs you.
Shameless self-promotion portion of the newsletter
The nicest thing to happen to me in a while was discovering that Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy (you’re already a devoted reader of her website, right?) featured This Is Where You Belong on her One Great Book podcast. It’s the podcast where she devotes an entire episode to a single book. Previous episodes have featured classics like Peace Like a River or Never Let Me Go, so I’m incredibly flattered to be in such good company. Go have a listen.
7 items of interest
1. Does winter make you hate where you live? Aim for a tiny shift in mindset to enjoy your place because of the seasons, not in spite of them.
2. “You are leaving NYC for a reason, and if you keep comparing the two cities, you may never be ready.” On leaving New York for elsewhere. (P.S.—The Californians are leaving too.) P.P.S.—On the other hand, some people are just arriving.
3. An easy way to integrate joy into a city’s infrastructure: Paint all the streets!
4. The best books evoke a sense of place, like this memoir that took me straight to small-town Scotland. Here are two great projects that capitalize on the connection between literature and location.
5. Our community saves us. Actually, we save each other. Over and over. (I love the idea of the random Venmo!)
6. Completely free public transportation . . . makes people take public transportation. Surprise!
7. Preserving small towns by preserving their largest empty buildings.