I lived in the darkness of the northern winters for 20 years and yet returning to it feels both strange and comforting.
Having lived in Australia with its sunny skies for a lifetime now it blows my mind to see the sun not rise till 9 o’clock in the morning and then only grace us with its presence till mid-afternoon. By 4pm it is pitch black again and another 17 hours of darkness starts again.
I spent all of my childhood in Denmark and the long dark winter evenings certainly encourages a lot more reading and opportunities to “hygge” with family and friends. Hygge is this unique Danish word for spending cozy time with loved ones. It often involves good food, drinks, candles and warm heating. Basically, people connecting and enjoying each others company. No direct translation is available as its such a Scandinavian term. It’s part of our unique culture and something I miss.
But I must also admit after 6-8 months of cold grey days and long dark nights it can become really depressing. The term winter blues is absolutely real. I remember longing for tropical sunny places during those long winters. When spring and summer finally arrive everyone feels a sense of euphoria. Life truly feels like it starts again when the first signs of spring flowers emerge out of the cold soil. Tiny white winter flowers were the first I remember being the initial sign even if they were often poking out of the snow on the ground. A strong feeling of renewed energy and life comes over everyone both humanss and animals. Again something you only truly experience in a climate of cold winter darkness.
In Australia where I live now, the seasons are too similar to really produce that sense of new life and energy. During our winters we may complain about the cold reaching “freezing” around 15C and the days getting shorter because we return from work in the dark. But its nothing compared to the cold north. Everything is relative to our normal environment and we all adjust accordingly.
Still, being back here for Christmas for the first time in over 20 years, in spite of the grey skies and the dark nights, it also feels strangely nurturing and comforting living in this darkness. It was such a big part of me for a long time and brings a lot of memories back on both a conscience and sub-conscience level. This return to the dark nights is reaching something deep in my core, a connection to my childhood and my parents who have long passed. A connection to what was part of me for maybe a relatively short time but a very important part of my life, a part that shaped the person I am today. I feel both a longing to be part of it again and a sense of loathing.
Being here in December is probably the best time if you have to experience this darkness. The Christmas lights are everywhere and somesmerizinglyy beautiful. The Danes seem to have both an overwhelming and understated way of displaying their Christmas joy. Unlike other countries, the lights are not flashing and multicoloured , but just a plain light lighting up the trees and gardens. Walking the streets is a joy with lights and candles in every window. It looks classy and beautiful rather than crass and flashy.
I guess because of the extreme differences in Christmas celebrations in my old country and in Australia I am truly looking forward to spending it with my Danish family in this cold dark country. This to me is Christmas. Even after living longer in Australia than I ever did in Denmark it still does not truly feel like Christmas when its sunny and hot outside. The novelty of Christmas on the beach and BBQ’s in the backyards has certainly been enjoyed many times, but I think as long as I live it will not feel like real Christmas to me unless its dark and cold outside.
Christmas is steeped in tradition and has so much magic for children. Maybe we all revert back to longing for how we spent Christmas as children. Or is the white Christmas in the dark something stronger.
I wonder ………..Would love your comments on this.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not I wish you all a wonderful and safe time filled with love and joy. May the writing come easy.