I'm plugging away with my happiness project despite the great lethargy I feel now at the beginning of my third trimester. I'm growing quite uncomfortable, and at the same time unsure of how I'm going to make it through the next three months. The darkness of winter is creeping in (sunrise: 8:25; sunset: 2:51) and our Vitamin D levels are running low, but at least we've had some playful, sunny days lately. This morning I came home from dropping off the kids at dagis and crawled back into bed, where I dozed for three hours. It's going to be a long winter.
But. The happiness must go on. This month I'm combing two focus areas that would normally get two separate months, but as time is short and December is a great month for both of these, I'm going to focus on community and tradition.
For community, I want to work on building the community of friends and loved ones around us. Research shows that the strength of relationships a person holds is one of the greatest determinants of long-term health and well-being. And as immigrants in a foreign country who live far from family, having a network of friends to call on for help and fellowship is crucial to sanity, if not survival. We've already begun planning to celebrate in the days around Christmas with dear friends, and we will work harder to open our home to friends and neighbors for dinner, fika, and playdates.
James and I have talked a lot about finding a community larger than ourselves, too. While neither of us are religious, like my favorite philosopher-author Alain de Botton, we believe that religion offers something valuable even to the non-religious. We know of an English-speaking church in Stockholm that offers family-friendly services, so we're looking into attending.
I also want to participate in making the world-at-large the community I want my family to live in. Especially after the tragic election in the US, we're looking to donate money to human rights and environmental organizations that build the human community and its environment up rather than tear it down.
I recognize that a large part of building community means creating and participating in traditions and rituals, both in the home and outside of it. Christmastime is a great season for tradition, of course, as there are so many easy traditions just waiting for us: decorating a tree, making Christmas cookies, singing carols, etc. I'm really inspired by this post from the Art of Manliness.
We also need to get better about our daily rituals, and making sure the kids know the drill for different transitions during the day (getting ready for school, getting ready for bed). I have the book The Book of New Family Traditions, which I'm taking off the shelf now to peruse for ideas for both daily rituals and seasonal ones.
I suspect, dear readers, that I'll be asking you a lot of questions this month about traditions. I'm fascinated by strong families, those who stay close as the children grow up, who genuinely enjoy spending time together as a family, telling old family stories, and carrying on family traditions.
In light of that: what are your favorite holiday traditions? Do you do anything in your family (or friend group) that's outside of the usual Christmas (or Hanukkah or other December holiday) traditions? I used to get together with girlfriends in Los Angeles in early December for "Christmas Craftmas", involving wine and cheese and hot glue guns, and now every year I miss it. Please share—I'd love to get some new ideas, and revel in the beauty of standard traditions.
Photo by Jez Timms