Winter: Embrace your inner Hygge.
I KNOW PEOPLE who are counting the days to Christmas. Fair enough, you might think. It's already November 14th.
But these people have been marking off the weeks since September. Which is about as much fun as a drunk Santa. Because embracing your inner elf is not the same as embracing Winter.
Winter is a whole season: a whole quarter of the year. And in colder climes than our little island, it's even longer than that.
Christmas and Winter become interchangeable.
There are of course lots of people who do embrace Winter. Clasp it to their woolly bosoms. A female friend of mine positively prefers it to Summer. It's a colour thing, apparently. A few years back she got her colours done with a beautician, who told her the Winter palette suited her skin.
And no sooner has she climbed into knee-high boots, and swathed herself in warm greys, maroons and chocolate browns, than she seems to glow.
For the rest of us, Christmas and Winter become interchangeable. One minute, we're binning the carved-out pumpkins and packing away the plastic skeletons; the next we're wondering where we've put the manger and whether we fixed the wonky Christmas tree lights last January.
Not for them condensation running down the windows.
Because the reminders are everywhere, for months on end. The shops start sneaking Christmas confectionary onto their shelves in September, and by October the husband is buying mince pies, because, well, aren't they only once a year?
The stress of it all.
Our European neighbours do it all better. Britain aside (their retailers seem to be as daft as ours), most of the countries on what we used to quaintly refer to as "The Continent", seem able to strike the balance.
Celebrating Winter is something they've been doing beautifully for a long time. Granted, they probably have to. The Northern climes get a lot more cold weather, and they're almost guaranteed snow every year.
But they know how to make it fun to stay in. Not for them condensation running down the windows and worrying about leaving on the immersion after your shower.
They have houses designed to keep in heat, roaring fires, softly glowing scented candles, cosy throws, snug slippers....I've seen those Ikea catalogues.
They invest in real thermals and snow boots, so they can browse their elegant Winter markets, buying hot roasted nuts, decadent hot chocolate and home-made gingerbread.
More a philosophy than just hot drinks and mad looking slippers.
Embracing Winter is so important in countries with long winters, they have words that can't be properly translated. The Swedes, for example, have Fredagsmys, which is best translated as Friday Cosiness. It's basically staying in on a Friday night, with snacks, a movie and a decent fire.
You can be sure that this is all done in an aesthetically pleasing way. Because they're Swedish.
The Danes, on the other hand, do Hygge (pronounced Hoo-Gah). It's a sort of life-style change, a mind-set where you completely embrace everything the season offers. More a philosophy than just hot drinks and mad looking slippers, which makes it difficult for most Irish people to understand.
But you know, fair play to them.
Meanwhile, I've at least come to the conclusion that giving out about how cold the house is, is not going to make Winter any shorter.
It's time to unearth the warm jacket, go for bracing walks and reward myself with hot chocolate. And avoid shopping centres for as long as I can decently manage.
Christmas will wait and be worth it all the more, for the wait.
Because if I see another chocolate Santa this side of December, I may be tempted to stamp on it.
Embrace my inner Hygge.
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