My personal Christmas tradition is going to Celebration in the Oaks in my hometown of New Orleans. I’ve been attending almost every year since I was a child. In elementary school, I performed at it one night each year with my school choir. It was always a fun time, because after the performance, I could run around with all my friends seeing lights and riding the rides.
Through high school and college, I usually attended with a large group of friends. Some years, I went with my family. I’ve been living in Baton Rouge now for 14 years, but I still go into New Orleans every year to attend Celebration in the Oaks in City Park. There is something awesome about experiencing the same lovely fun year after year.
This year, of course, was different. It is 2020 and nothing is the same. It was only open for a driving tour. We still drove down last week to see it.
It was a mixture of lights used each year with some new ones thrown in.
Many of the lights are NOLA themed.
One unique touch is that your family’s names showed up on the nice and naughty lists as your car reached them. My daughter showed up on the nice list and my husband on the naughty list.
There was a special tribute to our healthcare heroes this year during the global pandemic.
Here are a few pictures from the past years at Celebration in the Oaks. My absolute favorite ride in all of City Park is the carousel, also known as the flying horses. I love carousels, but this is my favorite carousel ever.
Another great part of our annual tradition is visiting Storyland. It was updated a couple years ago, but many of the classics remain, including the dragon slide and Cinderella pumpkin.
And then of course there is the annual picture in front of the poinsetta tree.
During a normal non-Covid year, I recommend visiting Celebration in the Oaks. It is full of fun experiences. From walking through the lights, seeing the decorated Christmas trees, riding the Ladybug roller coaster, roasting marshmallows, riding the train, and more, it is always a great time.
I recently read The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking. I have been listening to the podcast, By the Book, where each episode is about a different self-help book. When I listened to the hygge episode, I knew that I had to read the book. Before that, I didn’t know anything about hygge. But it definitely is how I prefer to live.
Hygge is a Danish word that can’t be exactly translated into English. It is pronounced something like “hooga.”
Wiking works at the Happiness Research Institute, which studies what makes people happy and how to improve the quality of life of people around the world. It is based in Denmark, which often ranks as the happiest nation in the world. The cultural concept of hygge is one aspect of why that may be so.
Reading the book reminded me of my book nook that I created several months ago. I was focusing on hygge and didn’t even know it! It is my very own hyggekrog!
There is even a song from the Broadway musical version of Frozen all about hygge!
In the book, Wiking lists a hygge manifesto, which boils down to the following ten concepts:
The book addresses various aspects of hygge. The first chapter is on light. The Danes love candles and burn them all the time everywhere. Scented candles are not a big deal. It is more about the light. They are also really into hyggelig lighting, which is at a lower temperature (definitely not fluorescent). They prefer a certain style of lamps, which “spread the light without subjecting people to a direct glare.” To create a hygge mood, there should be a lot of candles and small lamps to create “small caves of light” around the room. Denmark is dark and rainy, especially in the long winter. Lighting design can help increase those feelings of coziness and intimacy.
I feel like I have always been the opposite. When I walk into a hotel room, I always want to know why they have several lamps rather than one big overhead light. I’ve been trying to light candles more, but usually for the scent, not the lighting aspect. I feel weird in dimly lit restaurants. But do I just want those bright lights just because that is what I’m used to? I’m going to experiment with turning out the lights more and lighting the candles. We are in the process of buying a new house. When we move in a few weeks and I start decorating my new house, I am going to think about putting more lamps around, so that I at least have the option of hyggelig lighting when I want it. Maybe even some fairy lights!
Most of the candles that I have owned in my life have been gifts or come in a subscription box, such as Causebox. If I am going to be increasing my candle consumption and purchasing more candles myself, I will make sure to buy eco-friendly, all-natural candles. The book even mentions the air pollution and negative effects of burning too many candles, but it doesn’t address that there are options out there that are better than others. If you didn’t know that there was a difference in candles, just google non-toxic candles to find out what to look for when purchasing a candle.
Another chapter in the book is on togetherness. Hygge mostly happens in small groups of close friends or family. It is perfect for introverts like me who would prefer a relaxing, cozy night with a few friends to a big, loud gathering at a bar. I could still work on having more hygge togetherness moments, as I am not as always as social as I feel that I should be. Wiking says that the art of hygge involves “the art of expanding your comfort zone to include other people.” We are social creatures and as most happiness research shows – “the best predictor of whether we are happy or not is our social relationships.” It is important to have work-life balance in order to have those hygge moments with your family and friends.
What about hyggelig food and drink? The book states “hygge is about being kind to yourself-giving yourself a treat, and giving yourself and each other, a break from the demands of healthy living.” Danes eat a lot of sweets. Sweets are hyggelig. Comforting, slow-cooked foods are also hyggelig. The smells that permeate your house when baking bread or cooking a hearty stew definitely increase the coziness factor. Hot drinks are also very soothing. I’m not a coffee drinker, but tea and hot chocolate are nice when snuggling up under a blanket with a good book. The process of creating good food alone or with others is very hyggelig.
I’m not sure that I can convert to the Danish hygge definition of clothing. I am all for the casual and comfortable, but my style is not minimalistic, black, and full of scarves. I rarely wear scarves, and I love color. I like my clothes to be fun and put a smile on my face. That is hygge clothing to me. I will wear the comfy sweater and leggings, but they just might be bright pink instead of gray!
Danes are really into design since so much of hygge takes place at home. Since I am about to move into a new house, I am thinking about how I can make it as hyggelig as possible. The items in my home should be comforting. Items should be more than just the physical object, but hopefully have a story or emotional value to go with them. Wiking says that decorating with wooden items and simple, natural materials makes us feel closer to nature. Maybe that is why farmhouse decor is so popular in the U.S. right now.
He also says that we should add a variety of textures to our home. Not just cozy blankets and cushions, but how do the other items feel to the touch? Smooth ceramics, a wooden table, etc. Also a good hygge home should have books. And take the time to hand write letters. Very hygge.
I also want to make my office more hygge. I am a school counselor, so obviously the more comfortable and inviting my office is, the better. I’ve also had many students over the years ask to turn out the overhead lights and just sit in the natural light in my office.
Hygge is supposed to be in all aspects of our lives. We shouldn’t hygge just at home, but also at the office, at restaurants, out in nature, etc.
Hygge is also about experiencing and savoring the present moment. I’ve written about my struggle to be more present before. It’s an ongoing piece of work.
The Christmas season is the epitome of hygge. It has all of the required elements – family and friends, traditions, food, decorations. The book talks about some common Danish traditions. I would love to form even more traditions in my family surrounding the holidays.
What about you? Do you try to “hygge-fy” your life? And yes, I did just make up that word.
Two nights ago, I got to see Hanson live at the Fillmore in New Orleans for their Wintry Mix tour. I have been a huge Hanson fan consistently since middle school. If you only know “Mmmbop,” you are missing out.
Hanson is a pop rock band, and they put out new albums regularly. I am lucky that they almost always come to New Orleans when they tour, and I have had the opportunity to see them live a few different times.
This was my first time at the Fillmore. They have always played at the House of Blues in the past. The Fillmore is located inside of Harrah’s casino, and it is really nice. It’s much bigger than House of Blues. It is quite spacious, with multiple rooms. The decor is NOLA themed and fun.
We arrived for a 6pm show and were told that Hanson didn’t come on until 9pm! There were two opening acts. Thankfully, they have space to sit and visit and order food and drinks. There were even some Hanson-themed drinks, but I’m too cheap for expensive cocktails.
All Hanson shows are awesome. They are great musicians with upbeat energy. This show was especially exciting, because they played a mix of their hits and Christmas songs! Hanson has put out two Christmas albums, and I love Christmas music!
If you are not familiar with Hanson’s music, do yourself a favor and give them a listen.
Tonight, my daughter and I decorated our Christmas tree. We are not the kind of family with super posh and coordinated holiday decorations. But I loooove my Christmas tree.
My husband pulls the fake tree out of the closet. I turn on the Hanson Christmas albums. And we start decorating.
As I place each ornament on the tree, I smile and reflect on a special memory. You see, while my ornaments may not all match, each and every one is part of my story. I love to travel. On every trip I take, I carefully select an ornament to add to my collection. Each year, as I decorate the tree, I get to think about all of the places I have been.
I have so many favorite ornaments that I cannot share them all. Here are a few.
Of course, we also have lots of Disney ornaments, so I get something different each visit.
Not all of our Christmas ornaments are from travel. Many are special because they were handmade by my grandmother. She has given me many homemade ornaments over the years. These are just a couple.
Some ornaments don’t represent my travels, but rather my home!
Other ornaments represent important life events. The church plaque pictured below is where my husband and I got married. The long thin Santa shell was bought on our honeymoon. The angel shell is from my daughter’s baptism.
And of course, like any good tree, there are the Christmas ornaments made by the hands of a small child at school or elsewhere.
My tree is eclectic. But I wouldn’t have it any other way!