I studied abroad in Copenhagen during the Fall and early Winter of 2003 (So long ago!). My thoughts and memories frequently stray to Denmark: the main walking street (Stroget) and Hygge (the truly Danish concept of enjoying people’s company in a cozy environment, with drinks of course, and lasting for as long as possible. This is a great description I found on Hygge House: The Danish word hygge (hu-gah) is a feeling or mood that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary everyday things simply extraordinary. It’s about owning things you only truly love or that inspire, being present in yourself and your life, putting effort into your home without being Martha Stewart or buying a bed in a bag. Words like cosiness, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance, fellowship, simpleness and living well are often used to describe the idea of Hygge.).
I also think happily about Tivoli, the water front and canals, and the numerous bicycles. My last memory of Copenhagen was Denmark during the Christmas season. In November, I spent 3 weeks traveling around Europe. When I returned, it was the end of November and the holiday season was in full swing. I have never felt the Christmas season or spirit more keenly than that month in Copenhagen. Christmas in Denmark is a truly special time: the decorations, the attitude, and most importantly, the traditions were prevalent and eye-opening.
As we are well into the Christmas season this year, I certainly don’t want to ignore the traditions and customs that I and my family have, like decorating the tree shortly after Thanksgiving, buying stocking stuffers, drinking mulled cider, and admiring the Christmas lights. Those traditions are special to me. I do find myself feeling overwhelmed by the consumer culture that surrounds me, living in the DC area. Maybe it’s because D.C. operates in a bubble: the economy is pretty dreadful, but it’s hard to relate when there are throngs of people shopping in Georgetown and Tyson’s Corner. I love shopping for others and I do get a special feeling from finding that ‘perfect’ present for someone. But I am lacking something…a feeling of peace and contentment that I felt so prominently in Copenhagen.
When I was abroad, I lived with a host family who had two young sons (quite adorable!). Christmas traditions that I remember included: elves all over the house, paper hearts, glogge, Royal Copenhagen and Georg Jensen plates and ornaments, and holiday parties that did not focus on who was wearing the most expensive dress or bag but on genuine happiness to see another person. The holiday parties (and all other parties) at my host family’s house were hour long affairs (7 plus hours sometimes) full of toasts and drinks and amazing food. Even though I did not speak the language, except for a few phrases, I somehow, surprisingly felt included and swept up in the merriment. When wandering around the city with friends or by myself and seeing the lights along the walking street, or going into Tivoli for the Christmas wonderland, I really felt the Christmas spirit.
Here are a few images that really evoke a Denmark Christmas :
Holiday Heart Ornaments from Huset:
Georg Jensen Christmas Ornaments:
Royal Copenhagen Christmas plates and ornament:
Tivoli at Christmas: