I am seized with a complicated series of identity crises this time of year. Actually, I suppose they show up at various times and seasons — how could I both own and use a Fry Daddy with no shame and wear heels in the snow and still not actually be Southern?? It’s a mystery. And then Advent hits and I find myself drawn towards all things Scandinavian. I don’t want to make gingerbread, I want to make pepperkakor. Christmas goats? Sure! Makes sense to me. And while I still am uncertain about my pronunciation, the idea of hygge appeals to me greatly.
According to Spruce Eats:
What Is Hygge?
“Hygge is a Danish concept that encompasses the feeling of quiet comfort. Elements of hygge include plush textures, greenery, and warm, neutral shades. The feeling hygge is supposed to evoke is extreme coziness.”
This obviously does not have distinctly Christian roots, so why my fascination with this idea of warmth, light, coziness in the dark of winter, specifically in the dark of Advent before Light breaks forth? Because it is what we crave. Our hearts are not at rest unless we are in right relationship with our Creator, and because God is in the manger, because Light smashed the Darkness and the serpent’s head has been crushed once and for all, rest is now real! So perhaps the better question is, how is it possible for us as Christians not to be fascinated with spreading warmth and light and comfort to everyone around us??
There is a distinctly hospitable element to hygge. For the Swedes, they have a special name for the coffee break that you would share with a friend over something buttery and sweet — they enjoy fika together, and it is more than just a caffeine bump or a state instituted 15 minute pause from your workday. The picture, as I understand it, is one of intentional fellowship, of opening your home, your kitchen, your affections to another person in the middle of the darkest of seasons enjoying a miniature feast that your hands have wrought for the good of another. From my perspective, it is an act of faith: you and I can sit together, cozy in the warmth God has provided, because Light came once, and will come again. The darkness is going to end. And we are awash with the foretastes of glory, with the tastes of unbroken fellowship, with the glimpses of light that will finally overcome every last vestige of darkness.
We wait, we watch for the Light. And one of the ways God fuels our hope and confidence in His promises, that He keeps our eyes lifted up and watching for Him to keep His Word and finally banish all the darkness, is by teaching us to look back and see how He has kept His promises in the past. So today, as I write this, it is December 13th — Saint Lucia Day.
As Protestant Christians, we get squeamish about things like remembering saints, and we even get a little nervous telling, or “overtelling” Mary’s story, because we make a faulty assumption that remembering is the same as idolatrous revering. But we stand on the shoulders of giants in the faith — it would be absolutely silly of us to never look down.
The first December I tried my hand at making traditional saffron buns for Saint Lucia Day, they were… unusual. It was during the darkest season our family had yet known, both physically and spiritually. We were living on a large orchard near the Canadian border, and even living up on a hill that overlooked the valley where the unfriendliest town I have ever encountered sat nestled among the shadows, our hours of sunlight were few. The cliffs and rocks were ruggedly beautiful, but harsh. My husband was actively suffering what we can only now refer to as madness… it was dark everywhere. I baked to fight the darkness, to fight for joy.
As time has gone on, my saffron buns have improved (I just pulled this year’s from the oven a few minutes ago and they are pillowy soft, with a subtle sweetness and just a hint of saffron, with 2 zante currants per bun and they are perfection. I am giddy and might eat 14 of them), and I’d like to think, so has my remembering, my thanking, my fighting. And if God continues to see fit to keep me here, to bless me with more years and little bottles of dark red saffron threads, then I will continue to praise Him in the remembering of His faithfulness to generations, and hold fast that He will continue to be faithful to my family, too… so help me, God.