Advent Sundays - a Scandinavian tradition you'll love

Just picture this:  It's really dark and cold outside. The sun popped up for a few hours casting long shadows before it was gone again.  In most of the windows there are electrified stars or rows of electric candles.  It's December in Scandinavia and people stay in making preparations for the holidays surrounded by lots of lighting and burning candles.   For the first four Sundays leading up to Christmas eve Scandinavians light their Advent candles.  It is always 4 candles in a candle holder, or arranged on a tray or a wood log, decorated with anything from pine cones and branches to bows, berries, and shiny Christmas balls.   On the first Sunday families get together in the afternoon to light the first candle and watch it carefully so they don't burn more than one quarter.  The second Sunday two candles are lit, again only burning a quarter down and so on till the last (and fourth) Sunday of Advent.  Some have traditions to read specific poetry, others sing, but overall it is simply a nice way to get together and create "Hygge" and get in the holiday spirit. Sundays in Scandinavia are often filled with holiday preparations and between the lit Advent "stake" and the smell of baked holiday cookies, gløgg (spiced mulling wine) it is impossible not to get a little excited about the upcoming big event - Christmas eve. Growing up there this was always the goal but not what happened of course.  On the first Sunday of Advent we would frequently forget to blow out the candle in time (it burned all the way down) so my job was often to burn down the replacement candle during the week till it burned down one quarter so it would look right again on the second Sunday.  On the second Sunday we would all forget again, and I would have to prepare two replacement candles.  Every once in a while the decor would burn as well so after throwing a glass of water on the table containing the Advent "stake" and a nice embroidered holiday table cloth from Aunt Martha it would all have to be replaced.  After the initial upset the candleholder would be re-decorated and another tablecloth from Auntie Aud would appear. While the Advent was observed and the candle(s) burning we had Santa's workshop and made Christmas tree ornaments from glossy colored paper, usually woven heart shaped baskets and long chains of paper bands.  We would make marzipan from scratch and it took almost all day - at which time we would all nibble along the way so we had to make a whole new batch the following Sunday - and then maybe be able to save a few pieces for the designated marzipan tin for all the holiday parties. Most of the time that tin was empty by the time Christmas eve rolled around and we would buy the shaped and painted marzipan pieces at the local bakery.  But we didn't fear we wouldn't get enough - we always received a "Marsipan Gris" under the tree - a huge chunk of marzipan shaped and painted like a pig in a wooden crate resting on paper "hay".  Of course we would proceed to eat the entire thing late Christmas eve for an extra special stomach ache the next morning. Advent is a simple and nice way to create a little extra atmosphere before the holidays - so create your own "stake" containing four candles, add a little holiday detail to it, and don't be afraid to put some extra lights in all your windows.  It's charming, warm, and puts everyone in a good mood.  At Norden Living we have 4-candle holders of course, but we also created our own Advent "stake" - and while lighting it we'll be doing special Advent events on Sundays the whole month of December - Happy Holidays!

Just picture this:  It's really dark and cold outside. The sun popped up for a few hours casting long shadows before it was gone again.  In most of the windows there are electrified stars or rows of electric candles.  It's December in Scandinavia and people stay in making preparations for the holidays surrounded by lots of lighting and burning candles.  

For the first four Sundays leading up to Christmas eve Scandinavians light their Advent candles.  It is always 4 candles in a candle holder, or arranged on a tray or a wood log, decorated with anything from pine cones and branches to bows, berries, and shiny Christmas balls.  

On the first Sunday families get together in the afternoon to light the first candle and watch it carefully so they don't burn more than one quarter.  The second Sunday two candles are lit, again only burning a quarter down and so on till the last (and fourth) Sunday of Advent.  Some have traditions to read specific poetry, others sing, but overall it is simply a nice way to get together and create "Hygge" and get in the holiday spirit. Sundays in Scandinavia are often filled with holiday preparations and between the lit Advent "stake" and the smell of baked holiday cookies, gløgg (spiced mulling wine) it is impossible not to get a little excited about the upcoming big event - Christmas eve.

Growing up there this was always the goal but not what happened of course.  On the first Sunday of Advent we would frequently forget to blow out the candle in time (it burned all the way down) so my job was often to burn down the replacement candle during the week till it burned down one quarter so it would look right again on the second Sunday.  On the second Sunday we would all forget again, and I would have to prepare two replacement candles.  Every once in a while the decor would burn as well so after throwing a glass of water on the table containing the Advent "stake" and a nice embroidered holiday table cloth from Aunt Martha it would all have to be replaced.  After the initial upset the candleholder would be re-decorated and another tablecloth from Auntie Aud would appear.

While the Advent was observed and the candle(s) burning we had Santa's workshop and made Christmas tree ornaments from glossy colored paper, usually woven heart shaped baskets and long chains of paper bands.  We would make marzipan from scratch and it took almost all day - at which time we would all nibble along the way so we had to make a whole new batch the following Sunday - and then maybe be able to save a few pieces for the designated marzipan tin for all the holiday parties. Most of the time that tin was empty by the time Christmas eve rolled around and we would buy the shaped and painted marzipan pieces at the local bakery.  But we didn't fear we wouldn't get enough - we always received a "Marsipan Gris" under the tree - a huge chunk of marzipan shaped and painted like a pig in a wooden crate resting on paper "hay".  Of course we would proceed to eat the entire thing late Christmas eve for an extra special stomach ache the next morning.

Advent is a simple and nice way to create a little extra atmosphere before the holidays - so create your own "stake" containing four candles, add a little holiday detail to it, and don't be afraid to put some extra lights in all your windows.  It's charming, warm, and puts everyone in a good mood. 

At Norden Living we have 4-candle holders of course, but we also created our own Advent "stake" - and while lighting it we'll be doing special Advent events on Sundays the whole month of December - Happy Holidays!

Let there be light!

It's a sad reminder that summer is just about officially over when it gets dark earlier every day.  Before you know it you need to turn on all the lights when you get home in the late afternoon or early evening.  That is if you have any!  Or enough.

Growing up in the Scandinavian countries where the winter months are dark and cold for a long time, lighting was a very important aspect of making the best of an otherwise dark and sometimes depressing period. Everywhere you look there are plenty of freestanding lamps (yes - overhead recessed lighting is never enough) and dozens of candles to create cozy atmosphere ("hygge").  And despite the lack of natural light Scandinavians seem to thrive just as much while entertaining or going out as they do in the summer. 

As a general rule, there really should be a light in every corner of the room to make the room seem as large and inviting as possible.  Add some decorative lights, a few reading or work lights, a chandelier or pendant to set the mood, and you're all set for a pleasant environment where you won't even think about how dark it is outside.  

In Scandinavian design lighting has always been one of the most important elements, and it's no different in the way we selected the lighting collection at Norden Living. From the more practical pieces for reading and working to a wide variety of pendants that can be swagged in corners or hung over dining tables, these lights provide not just illumination but are also elements of style and simple Scandinavian sophistication.

We are particularly excited about the designs from Louis Poulsen, many of which are results of carefully calculated light reflection studies for the ultimate in pleasant lighting, the Bell Collection of pendants from Normann Copenhagen with its versatile design, and the small scale JWDA dimmable table lamp that will easily light up any shelf or table top alone or in multiples. 

So do what the Scandinavians do - embrace the darkness and add some lighting.  It's that easy!  

Back to School - no enrollment necessary

When somebody mentions Back To School we think about the retailers push to sell office supplies and maybe a few pieces of clothing. But that has all changed - looking at early advertising it is not just for students any more and it seems it's bound to include more and more vaguely related products - no enrollment necessary.  And if you look close enough you'll surely find Back To School promotions on pet food, condoms, and orchids.

Back To School sales are expected to reach $857 billion in sales this year (serious?!!!) and after a slow summer retailers are gearing up to make their sales goals - it does after all represent a healthy 17% of annual retail sales.  Most of the traditional items like paper, pens, pencils and binders are advertised with steep discounts to entice the shoppers to buy other items in the store. 16 states even offer a sales tax free week or weekend on school supplies and children's clothing (what happened State of California?).

We get it.  It's a really big deal.  So we decided to jump on the Back To School train - because it's so big!

Lots of kids have a definite opinion about what they like and don't like when it comes to their interiors.  If you want them to sit at their desk and do homework you have to provide a space and furniture that will actually make them stay there till it's done - it's your duty (just saying).  And while you're doing this maybe your own desk needs a little help too.  The dining table and the kitchen island is fine for occasional office work - but it's hard to concentrate without reaching for the fridge for a snack every few minutes, or having to remove everything off the dining table in order to set the table for dinner.  You might just need a real desk - the laptop is great for use at home but it still needs to live somewhere other than the top of your coffee table - and tripping over the cord gets really old and looks like you're still in college (if you still look like you're still in college - good for you!).

At Norden Living we believe in light, open and functional with a decidedly modern design.  It's how most families today want to live (well singles too - they just make it seem easier somehow).  We are therefore proud to introduce our latest addition to our line-up:  the Journal desk from Normann Copenhagen.  Simple, stylish, functional, clean, and modern - to mention a few.  Add a great (57 years old actually) Danish design classic - the Arne Jacobsen table lamp, a Form chair with a swivel base and castors, and a Block trolley table to keep you organized.   So get into the Back To School spirit whether you have real back to school needs (kids) or not - it's time to bring out your inner student!

 

4images.png

4th of July - not as exclusively American as you think...

4th of July is the ultimate American holiday.  We eat American, wear American, sing American, and (in general) speak American English - with great diversity for sure - but it's definitely all-American.

Or so I assumed.  Why look outside our borders for more?  So when my Danish business partner mentioned that it is a big event in Denmark as well  -  well, I questioned it and thought it was probably a very minor event.  He was just being a patriotic Dane to make me, the Norwegian, feel less accomplished.  Ongoing battle.  I was wrong.  As it turns out the biggest 4th of July celebration outside USA takes place in Denmark every 4th of July since 1912. How in the world did that come about?

In 1911 Danish immigrant Max Henius came up with the idea that it would be great to have a place where Danish emigrants and immigrants could come together and honor their Danish American roots.  After raising funds from Danish Americans, they bought 200 acres of forested hills in Rebild, Denmark and named it Rebild Bakker National Forest.  It was given to the Danish government on the condition that it would remain in its natural state and open to the general public - and a place to celebrate American holidays.

Today this is a big event that all Danes know well.  If they don't attend (thousands show up for entertainment, speakers, food and festivities) they watch it on television.   It's attended by heads of government, royals, and celebrities from both continents.  In other words: it's a big deal!  A big American deal.  

Despite our bad American reputation (especially of late) most companies want to enter the US market - it's huge and consumption oriented.  At Norden Living we feel that of all the Scandinavian countries we represent designs from, the Danes have always out shined their Scandinavian neighbors both through innovative design and a strong desire to enter the US market - and what better way to make best friends with their biggest export market than celebrating the 4th of July?  And honoring history at the same time?

It's marketing brilliance - which is why Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen, Louis Poulsen and many other Danes are now household names in the US. And at Norden Living we are happy, through our retail and web shops to further promote the recognition Danish design has received - while still proudly celebrating 4th of July.

HYGGE - what it REALLY means

You know it's big when even the big box retailers in home decor are printing their version of the definition of hygge in their catalogues.  They show examples of things that create hygge but it doesn't always seem quite right.  At Norden Living, we know hygge - we grew up with it.  But defining it?  Not so easy.

It comes from a Norwegian word meaning a sense of well-being.  The Danes made it famous and it is today a common term in both countries.  Once settled into a social situation with good food, pleasant company and (especially in winter) getting warm and comfortable one person will declare that we are now having a HYGGELIG time.

There are no single items required to create hygge but there are a number of things that will help create it.  At Norden Living right now we feel we can provide some hygge with the Kubus candleholder from byLassen, a soft and very warn wool blanket designed by Snøhetta for Røros Tweed, Mormor plates with home cooked food and Mormor cups with hot cider, and some great colorful Krenit Bowls with homemade snacks.  

But these are just things -  the real hygge and how to create this sense of well-being is up to you.  If you take time to enjoy your company, have pleasant conversation, and take time to enjoy the food and taste a little bit of everything,  you're well on your way.  If you constantly try to do dishes (while your guests are still there) and be the perfect host more concerned about the spill on the table cloth rather than taking part in the conversation you're probably not creating hygge.  

Americans are famously running for the door as soon as the dessert is over - Scandinavians will hang out and take time to fully enjoy themselves - leaving a Saturday night dinner party before midnight would be considered a disaster of a party.  And that is not hyggelig.  To us hygge means you're having a very nice, comfortable time in good company - without thinking about when you have to leave.