Column: Nightmare before Christmas

“Avid Christmas enthusiasts give me nightmares,” says Design Stories columnist Hanna-Katariina Mononen. This year she has decided to face her fears.

Candle by the window
“At the risk of making a gruesome mistake, just for the heck of it I’m going to try to be a Christmas person,” promises Hanna-Katariina Mononen.

YOU MAY HAVE HEARD of Whamageddon. It’s an internet survival challenge: starting on the first day of December, you must avoid setting your ears on Wham’s Last Christmas. If the song finds you before Christmas Eve, you’ve lost. But there’s a different kind of Christmas challenge you could set even in November: who can go the longest without coming across someone complaining about how Christmas calendars and whatnot seem to arrive in shops earlier and earlier every year. That’s a game I’ve already lost this year.

Although I’m pretty sure that Christmas calendars and other seasonal products hit the shelves at the same time annually, for more years than I can remember I’ve taken a poor view of Christmas. I’ve never really been interested in getting into the mood, let alone putting up Christmas decorations. I find people who say they love Christmas downright scary.

By the time it actually comes round, however, most years I find myself admitting that Christmas is not so bad – and afterward I might even say to myself that I could even have put up with it for a bit longer this time round, or even allowed myself to enjoy it. It was a nice, cozy experience. It is surprisingly pleasant in the darkest days of winter to take things easy, watch safe and predictable Christmas movie fodder like Love Actually and Home Alone, play board games together, and otherwise just enjoy a perfect holiday season where, by mutual agreement, every day feels like Sunday.

It is surprisingly pleasant in the darkest days of winter to take things easy.

Normally I’m one of the first to call for enjoying life, slowing the pace and creating a celebration more or less at the drop of a hat, but for some reason I’ve always drawn the line at Christmas. The whole idea of everyone single-mindedly indulging in a celebration of light in the darkness leaves me cold. I wonder what that says about me.

This year, however, I’ve decided to be different – at the risk of making a gruesome mistake, just for the heck of it I’m going to try to be a Christmas person. This will involve, at the very least, Christmas carols, Christmas-themed films, putting cardamom and cinnamon in everything edible, and various craft and baking evenings. Maybe even a Christmas concert. I’m going to make the cards and plan the gifts well in advance, a departure from my usual strategy of simply skipping the former and doing the latter in a rush at the very last moment. In the past, in other words, there was a clear pattern: just go through the motions, do what’s expected of you, get it all over with.

But this time I’m going to genuinely enjoy it, and I’ll be in Christmas mode for at least two months! However, I’ve made a solemn promise to my inner Scrooge that I intend to keep: spring starts on the first of January, by which time every last sign of Christmas will have been removed and safely packed away. It would be nice if the neighbors felt the same way: last year, the Christmas tree stood in their yard in all its decorated glory until well into April.

I recommend: Antti + Vuokko Nurmesniemi exhibition

THE DESIGN MUSEUM in Helsinki is currently featuring works by one of Finland’s most renowned designer couples, interior designer Antti Nurmesniemi (1927–2003) and textile artist Vuokko Nurmesniemi (born 1930). This is the first joint exhibition of their work. The couple have left an indelible mark on the history of Finnish design. The exhibition runs until April 9, 2023.

• Read also: Antti and Vuokko Nurmesniemi’s life, work and leisure come together in the Design Museum’s fascinating exhibition in Helsinki >

Hanna-Katariina Mononen

The author, Hanna-Katariina Mononen, reflects on the issues of a beautiful and sustainable life in her monthly column for Design Stories. She thinks that just like in life, in the home, the most beautiful parts are unplanned – and often relatively ordinary as well.

Text and image: Hanna-Katariina Mononen

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