I’ve always liked Christmas but since I arrived in Scandinavia I’ve started perceiving it differently. Scandinavians, in general – there are definitely exceptions, love Christmas. They enjoy it and experience it more than anyone else. Already in November you can easily find houses decorated with Christmas lights as well as listen to Christmas songs on the radio. But let’s start from scratch.
It was during my exchange year in Norway when I experienced the Scandinavian Christmas spirit, for the very first time. As seeing the Northern Lights was very high on my bucket list, my friends and I organised a trip above the arctic circle. I still consider it one of the best adventures of my life. Until this day, my very good friend and I laugh at stories that happened on this trip. Dog sledding, reindeers, native Saami people, temperature that hardly exceeds minus 20°C – feels like freezing yet melts my heart when thinking about it all. And at the very end of the trip, right before our flight back to Oslo, the Northern Lights. My very first ones.
Tromsø, a small fishing town located in the fjords, was magical. Colourful houses decorated with shimmering Christmas lights have created a beautiful contrast to the white blanket of fresh snow in the otherwise dark nordic scenery. It all fit together, one could not be without the other. It was in Tromsø where I understood the real purpose of the Christmas decorations – it brings light to the otherwise grey winter days.
Let’s move a few years forward, my first winter in Iceland. I’m alone, either in a big house where I live, or in a huge fish factory turned into a hipster space, where I work. It’s dark outside, even though my watch says it’s 10 am. The sun might quickly show up between 11 am and 3 pm and then it leaves us again until tomorrow. Therefore I light up some candles, put the Christmas decorations on my windows, bake cookies, and watch movies. I like the Icelandic term, although it’s half English, hafa kósý or have it cosy. It’s not so much the space as it is the feeling. Just like the Danes love their hygge, Icelanders can’t do without their cosiness. If anyone ever wonders why all the great interior design and architecture come from Scandinavia, it simply means they have never visited it. In comparison to the Southern countries, where people live their lives outdoors, in Scandinavia people spend most of their time indoors. How else could they escape the unbearable cold and darkness, lasting half a year. And so they renovate, refurnish and decorate. And I completely get them – because I do the same.
When I used to live in the Icelandic countryside, I would always look forward to my regular visits to Reykjavík. I would go to a cosy coffeehouse and order a liquorice latte, get a beer from a local brewery and end my evening at a concert. Most I remember my visits to the city in December, while it was full of Christmas spirit. And that was when I truly fell in love with Reykjavík.
Past two years, I decided to stay for Christmas in Iceland. Both years I experienced a little sadness and disappointment based on the fact that I could not spend Christmas in Slovakia. On the other hand, I have never been in such a Christmas mood as during those past years. I must say, it is definitely thanks to Iceland. Christmas spirit has got into my bones and hopefully will never leave. This year is different though: I work more and clearly feel that stress and hustle. I desire peace and balance, happiness and ease. And that is what I wish to all of us for the next year: enjoy your everyday life, find your inner stability and be your true yourself. In order to love, you have to be all you can be. And mostly, you have to love yourself.