December 5 – December 11
December is here. It’s an intimate time that puts things in perspective if other moments throughout the year hadn’t. Winter has that effect, naturally. The cold and dark mood of the world, especially as rain drenches all and you can see your breath cut through the air at 9 in the morning in the lowest part of San Francisco, is only fitting for the human spirit to start radiating what warmth it can to fight against them. And in Denmark, it’s all praise for such a phenomenon: ’tis the season of Hygge.
I first heard about Hygge in some radio commercial of Christmas Past for Cost Plus World Market, when the celebration was marked by candle light and lots of pillows and blankets around cups of hot coffee. “Hooga” is the celebration of coziness, as the word roughly translates to. Visit Denmark elaborates on the notion of Hygge as “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people… Danish winters are long and dark, and so the Danes fight the darkness with their best weapon: Hygge.” And I had my eyes set on Denmark this year for traveling. What I would have given to seen the country in the time of all this warmth; the candles, the thick wool, the cheerful winter markets and colorful harbors lively and busy against the cold of Copenhagen as boats bob in the canals. How marvelous it would have been to see, especially for a fairy tale city I grew up admiring from the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and summer visits to California-based Solvang. As life goes, Fate had it that my time would be spent elsewhere, with my oldest friend whom I met up with amidst the holiday sprawl of a snowless New York City. But, timing is everything. In the time that I would have seen myself gone away from home just made me remember that for this time of the year, home is where you really should be. Hygge isn’t just a holiday or in one place– it’s coziness all around, a feeling one must create so that the darkness of winter does not consume them. As far away as I remain from the hub of Hygge, there’s no telling that what I have experienced here in San Francisco during December isn’t Hygge at all.
Start with coming back from New York. Although the heart of the Silver Bells myth, it felt as Christmas in New York as it would in a palm tree laden paradise. Maybe it was the lack of snow, maybe it was how 5th Avenue and SoHo felt so identical to Union Square back home, but coming back to San Francisco is when I truly felt the Christmas spirit. There really is no place like home for the holidays, as the song goes, so I like to think it was that. Nothing beats the familiarity of
- The wreaths in all the windows of the gleaming Macy’s across from the tree and skating rink flooded with amateur couples on the square
- A strong cup of Irish Coffee sipped at the counter of the Buena Vista before a holly and bell-decked Cable Car ride back downtown in the brisk late night, through the rolling hills of Hyde Street and Chinatown
- Lights strung around grand old Victorian ladies of Pacific Heights and their curbside bare trees, holly berry wreaths hung on white glass doors
- The Embarcadero on a Friday night, the lights of cars and bridges and towering skyscrapers alike flickering against the rain, and carrying a single yellow umbrella in heels walking with a case of PBR under your other arm
- Watching classics like Elf with baked Brie and Pecan Pie beer and friends in PJs, and moving on to not so classics like Krampus
- Fur collared coats, cracked hands, old lace up boots, deep red lips like blood that lighten all the black you wear
- How light glistens through the dozen delicate mason jar snowglobes you proudly make yourself for gifts
- The many alley ways where these lights continue, as well as artificial garlands that are stuffed into the cracks of Japantown store windows and along the mirrors of Kearny Bars
- A studio apartment kept cozy by a space heater and Home Alone 2 on repeat, where most evenings end in melted Junior Mints and whiskey-cokes, and the carolers visit in the constant sound of Ambulance sirens headed to the hospital up the street
- Santas, Santas aplenty has Santacon rolls around once more– many of their hats ending up in gutters along Polk Street where the heavy rain of that Saturday float them along in floods of dirty water. But they’re too busy to notice, drunk on peppermint-chocolate schnapps and feeling alive in their cheap red suits and felt hats with white pom poms dangling by a lazy string. Some might be familiar acquaintances hosting a cramped party beneath cheap decor bought from your company, others being new faces with motherly intentions giving over their half of a turkey sandwich at Lefty O’Doul’s.
These strange, familiar occurrences really put forth that feeling of love and joy needed most in your city just weeks away from Christmas– and best feelings when they’re the gifts you find giving back yourself.Having been broken up with by boys from afar and by friends who grow busy with their new lives in new homes in different cities or with other friends who are less weird than yourself– you start slipping into a self-despair of insignificance. But that’s the beauty of Hygge, and how I’ve found that this is the year where that feeling only comes best from when you find yourself becoming the warmth that another lost soul had been searching for, too.
Being there for someone is better than the other way around– it’s you in all your imcompletion that someone else begins to feel complete, a miracle and reminder that you alone are desirable, worthy of the love that keeps the human spirit alive and well in the winter. Reminders like serving as the date for a holiday party that isn’t your own, a date who was so proud of your elegance in a blue dress in the private room of the Waterfront Restaurant where wide windows embraced the glow of the Bay Bridge lights across the dark waters. It’s them that you keep falling more in love with and less in love with the band right before your eyes, the band that was the first love of your modern life. They say money can’t buy happiness, but it sure does when your purchases create the best memories, and the night of chaos and familiar tunes at Not So Silent Night was most memorable. I would have never had the pleasure of Bastille, Head and the Heart, and Green Day all at once in so beautiful and vibrant a memory without the utmost love and appreciation from someone new. The music plays loudly the songs you know by heart and classics you think only you as a true fan knows– and by some Christmas magic, you find you’re not singing alone.
In the past, the love and joy were things I received from many–and those many faces are gone. Little would I know that a year later, this was to be the Christmas for me, a lifelong dream finally fulfilled at the expense of a stranger who’s been the blessing I hadn’t seen coming, a face with soft eyes that make me feel alive and less alone as they sing softly to Rivers and roads when the Head and the Heart close their set on one of their most heartfelt songs that pierce the arena– rivers ’til I reach you. As Christmas miracles prove,you suddenly feel like there’s nothing else needed in return for marking this most perfect moment in the cold of the world.
In creating that perfect intimacy most needed now, Hygge is best found by old, familiar experiences. Except for now, when you can relive them with new others, when you can feel that these moments need not be bound by one cold winter, but for eternity. Timing is everything, and if you’ve found Hygge, then time is aplenty to keep cozy.