One morning last week, my daughter and I were walking through the park on the way to school. We noticed that some of the leaves had begun to turn and that got us talking about autumn coming. I love autumn. However this year the summer has been so good that a part of me wasn’t ready for it to be over.
But then with an intake of breath, my daughter exclaimed, “That means Christmas is coming!!” For lots of us, the imminent arrival of autumn immediately makes us think of the struggle through the long, cold, miserable winter ahead but the reality is that there’s nothing we can do about the change in season. We can however take control of how we frame these external events and this is what my daughter was doing.
So, this got me thinking. I started asking my friends rather than what they dread about winter coming, what is it that they’re looking forward to? What I found out is that it really is the small things in life that make us happy:
- The Winter Wardrobe (especially if it involves buying new clothes) – coloured tights, boots, hats, jumpers, in fact anything knitted. For one friend, it was being able to wear socks again.
- Gorgeous cold, clear days – seeing your breath in the air; the first day your cheeks and ears tingle with the cold; blue winter skies; amazing, low sunlight; autumn colours and the smell of wood smoke in the air; kicking through crunchy leaves and puddle jumping with the kids.
- Velvety black, completely dark nights and seeing the stars on clear nights.
- Snow – the anticipation that we might get some and then the delight at the first snowfall. Michael McIntyre is so right when he says that crazy things happen when it snows and that the only excuses for waking a women on a lie-in is if a celebrity dies or it snows overnight 🙂
- Seasonal food – haggis, neeps and tatties, figs, homemade soup, and German spuds at the Christmas market. Drinking hot chocolate, red wine, mulled wine, hot toddies… basically anything hot and preferably alcoholic.
- Festivals and celebrations – Halloween, birthdays and of course… Christmas! I was glad to see this was on so many people’s lists.
- Generally, cosying up – coming in from work when it’s already dark, getting into PJs, putting on some candles or twinkly lights and cosying up in front of the fire, with loved ones – be that people, pets or coffee and biscuits.
- And my favourite quote that deserves a category all of its own – “nosing into people’s houses in the darkness. They have lights on. It is dark outside. I am not a stalker!”
These points show that as dwellers of countries with long, dark winters, we’ve built up adaptive behaviours that help us face, even look forward to, its arrival. I learned from my friend Paul that the Danes have a whole concept for what’s described above – hygge. You’ll see from this video that the Danes have a hard time describing what it means, and who blames them! It’s a feeling that you can only really understand once you’ve experienced it. We should all have a term for this – the closest I came up with for the Scottish winter is to “coory in”, like a hedgehog getting ready to hibernate. Well, there’s not much chance of hibernation for us so instead we’ve created all these fantastic things to look forward to that make the winter worthwhile.