Somewhere along the way, months ago, Helsinki grew dark. In early December it remains dark even on a reasonably clear day. This is the time for salmon soup lunches, served hot with toasted rye bread. For mulled wine made in the Nordic way with berry juice blended in wine, with or without spirits, with raisins and sweet almonds covering the bottom of the mug. And this is also the time of frantic christmas shopping, for most people.
This year Helsinki was especially beautifully dressed. And good it was, because I belong to those (few) who do not like christmas. I used to love it: the traditions, the food, the warmth inside, the candlelight, the mulled wine, the togetherness. But for quite a while christmas has been a stark reminder of a sense of completeness now lost forever. I do not mourn the loss of childhood christmas as such, but the loss of the christmases of my twenties. There have been multiple changes in our family and connections, and the christmas dinner guest setups of the past are, indeed, of the past.
Each year I try to tell myself that this is a first-world problem: a problem of a privileged mind, mourning the loss of perfection, of “having-it-all”. I try to turn it around as a reminder of the constant change in this world and my own existence. I try to find beauty in imperfection. And I try to smile, to participate in the coziness of my family’s christmas. Because after all, it was a considerable effort on their behalf to send me postal invites to a “midwinter dinner celebration” the first years after my divorce, which was perhaps the most impactful in a row of family changes. When I was seriously considering spending each forthcoming christmas in a Jewish or Muslim country, or with a tribe who never heard of Jesus.
It does not get easier with time. But each christmas is different. This year I thought it would be easier, as we spent it in the countryside for the first time. It turned out to be more difficult than in years. Even if there was snow and candles and family and coziness. Living in the present is not an easy trick to pull off. (Helsinki, Finland; December 2018)