New experiences give us a diverse palette with which to paint our lives.
Recently I kicked off my holiday season by going to Julefest at the Nordic Heritage Museum here in Seattle, Washington. It’s become one of my favorite traditions since I moved out here, because I’m half Danish, and my mother always shared that cultural heritage with us, particularly around Christmastime. I ate my Æbleskiver and I purchased my Juleneg for my yard. If you don’t know what those things are, you aren’t Danish. That’s okay, though. You can learn.
That’s what I love about cultural celebrations. You don’t have to come from that particular culture to enjoy them, but if you do, it adds another layer of pleasure to the experience. The whole day, I felt as though my grandmother were peeking over my shoulder and smiling. I was transported back to childhood and beyond.
I have never even been to Denmark, but all things Danish seem to speak to me. “Here are your roots. Here, you are home.” It’s a warm, comfortable, welcoming feeling that I get nowhere else. The Danish would call that Hygge.
If you have an opportunity to explore your cultural heritage, I highly recommend that you do so. I don’t know how these vibrations get passed down through the generations, but there’s a good chance that you’ll find that things resonate with you. It’s a wonderful feeling. It tells you more about who you are.
This planet is chock full of heritage. That’s what makes travel so exciting. That’s why I welcome immigrants of every stripe. New experiences give us depth and breadth and they open our minds to new possibilities. They broaden our horizons and give us a diverse palette with which to paint our lives.
Experiencing other cultures is not the same as cultural appropriation. That theft comes with mockery and arrogance. Experiencing, on the other hand, is a way to honor our differences. It says, “I don’t know much about you. Please tell me. I want to learn.” I can’t think of anything more valuable than that mindset. Can you?
The holidays can be painfully lonely for those of us who are single. At a time when joy is almost mandatory, it makes you feel that much worse when you can’t quite get there. Bah, humbug.
In years past, I’ve tried my best to pretend that the holidays weren’t happening. For example, it’s my New Year’s tradition to be asleep well before midnight. And I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have to work on Thanksgiving day, so no turkey for me.
But this year, I’ve decided to go about things differently. Rather than pull my head into my shell, I’m going to thrust myself, headlong, into the festivities.
First came the Holiday Bazaar that my little town puts on. Vendors and craftsmen galore. I was really impressed by the level of creativity. I treated myself to a few things, knowing that Santa hasn’t had me on his drop-off schedule in years. Usually I’m not really in to acquiring stuff, but what the heck.
On another day, I went to Julefest at the Nordic Heritage Museum with my friend Paula. Being half Danish, this has sort of become my Seattle tradition. Again, I bought myself stuff, and also enjoyed the good food and the traditional music. But mostly I enjoyed spending time with a dear friend.
Here are some of the things that I got myself at these two events. The dog is not included. But the socks are. I like the symbolism of the chick emerging from its shell. A local artist paints all sorts of things on rocks, but this spoke to me because I’m trying to emerge, too.
Next, I bought myself some pre-cooked turkey, some instant stuffing, some canned corn, and two types of pie (two slices). I had myself a Thanksgiving dinner a few days late. I even let my dog have a bit of turkey, as I’m thankful for him, too.
Then I went to my little town’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Festivities included Christmas music by the high school band. And when the city councilman spoke, the speakers stopped working, which seemed like a gift from above, if I’m honest. Then the tree was lit, in the same square where I’ve enjoyed Tuesday Farmer’s Markets all summer. My town. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy.
And talk about putting myself out there. While waiting for the tree to be lit, I noticed a man my age, all alone, and sans wedding ring, in the crowd. An old hippie, wearing a leather hat. Just my type. Unfortunately, he was not receiving my “please talk to me” mental telepathy. Normally I’d leave things at that and just feel lonely.
Not this time. I knew if I didn’t at least try, I’d regret it. So, heart pounding, I walked up to him and introduced myself. I told him I’d recently bought a house in the area, and this was my first Christmas tree lighting, and I wanted to see if I had the courage to walk up to a nice looking man and say hello. So… hello.
He thanked me. He said his name was Neal. He said I’d probably see him around. And that was that.
I don’t know what I was expecting. Men aren’t used to being pounced on, especially at our age. And if he’d have been able to switch gears that smoothly, and ask me for coffee or something, I’d have been shocked. (But I probably would have gone. And I don’t even drink coffee.)
Ah well. I tried. And I’m proud of me for that. Life goes on. This loneliness blanket that settles upon my shoulders is actually kind of soft and warm after all these years.
At least I’m putting myself out there. Next on the agenda: The Great Figgy Pudding caroling competition with my friend Amy, and then Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn, the musical, by myself.
Do me a favor. On Christmas morning, remind me of three things: How much money I’ve spent on myself, how much fun I’ve had, and most of all, how lucky I am to have so many awesome people in my life, even if they aren’t there on those red letter days.
(But don’t be surprised if I still go to bed before midnight on New Year’s Eve.)
In case you haven’t heard me lament this fact before: I’m single. At this time of year, that means I don’t bother putting up a Christmas tree. It just seems like too much effort when no one but me will appreciate it.
But I can’t seem to give up one tradition: I buy myself a Christmas ornament every single year. I do this, knowing full well they’ll rarely see the light of day. I do this despite the fact that I really am trying not to accumulate stuff. (If moving across the continent taught me nothing else, I am now painfully aware that every possession I add to my pile is that much more weight I’ll have to haul from pillar to post, and I’m not getting any younger or stronger.)
The reason I can’t kick my ornament habit is that I don’t buy just a boring, featureless, round orb. My ornaments have to be unique. They have to invoke something I experienced that particular year. My ornaments have to be a part of my story.
I have ornaments I made in childhood. I have ones my grandmother brought from Denmark. I have some my mother sewed on her singer sewing machine. (I also still have the sewing machine.)
Many of my ornaments relate to my travels. There’s the tiny Navajo pot I got while traveling through the west. And, oh, look! There’s the blown glass Santa on his sleigh that I got in Venice, Italy. And there’s the colorful articulated fish that I bought the time I took my favorite aunt to Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. And the greyhound in the Santa hat kind of brings tears to my eyes, now that my greyhound has gone to rainbow bridge.
I have never understood people who insist that their Christmas decorations be all color coordinated and follow a theme. I prefer my mad jumble of random baubles that takes me down memory lane. If I ever do put up a tree again, the person that inspired me to do so will be treated to my life story as we decorate.
This year, I bought what I consider to be the quintessential Seattle ornament. First of all, I bought it at the annual Yulefest, which is put on by the Nordic Heritage Museum here in town. Since I’m half Danish, this fest is rapidly becoming another Christmas tradition for me. And this particular ornament is a gnome, which is very Danish, indeed (although they call them Nisse in Denmark. Read my post about that here).
But this isn’t just any gnome. This one is dressed in the bright green and blue of the Seattle Seahawks, and he’s called the “twelfth gnome” just as Seahawks fans are called the twelfth man. Even though I am not a sports fan, how could anyone resist the twelfth gnome?
Merry Christmas, dear readers!
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