Saturday we went out to buy our Christmas tree. Eldest couldn’t join us because Eldest always has more important things to do these days, so it was just Herself, Youngest, and Me.
We wanted to make it an actual event, as it should be, so the three of us decided we’d try a new place a couple of towns over. They were advertising locally, selling a whole experience: come get your tree from us and enjoy complementary glögg and hot cocoa, and roast your own marshmallows.
Sounded good, so we made the ten-mile trip to the middle of nowhere. Living as we do on the outskirts of nowhere, getting to its middle isn’t too long a haul, but the place where we usually get our tree is just a couple of clicks from our house, so in relative terms it was an epic journey.
It was an idyllic drive through a snowy rural landscape, and through one cozy little village all primped up in its Christmas glory. We were all feeling very Christmassy.
The moment we arrived at our destination our disappointment was immediate. They had glögg and they had hot cocoa and we saw a couple of little kids roasting marshmallows over a barrel fire, but the selection of Christmas trees reminded me of the old pictures of Soviet grovery stores: there was hardly anything, and what there was looked awful. There couldn’t have been more than a half dozen trees to choose from, and two of them were only waist-high.
We’d only been there a moment or two, each of us idly wandering around the lot and trying to reconcile our high expectations with the dismal reality that confronted us, when youngest sidled up to me.
“I think we should go to the place we normally go,” she whispered.
I gave her an amen.
The two of us began walking toward Herself, who was already walking toward us.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said quietly.
We got into the car and pointed it toward the old familiar place.
About twenty minutes later we were there, and it was glorious. For one thing it’s on the edge of the forest, whose towering and snow-covered pines felt much more Christmassy than the snow-swept fields of nowhere.
For another it was very crowded (as always) and there were hundreds of trees to choose from (as always). The smell of glögg and æbleskiver filled the air.
As we set about the important business of selecting our tree, Youngest sidled up alongside me.
Uh-oh, I thought, is she not happy here?!
What she whispered this time, however, had nothing to do with our location.
“Is that Mette Frederiksen?” she asked.
She directed my attention toward a woman in a salmon-colored beret.
A woman in a salmon-colored beret who happened to be Denmark’s current Prime Minister.
I was entranced.
Not by the sight of Mette Frederiksen, but by the absolute indifference being shown her by everyone around us. A stranger to Denmark arriving on the scene would have absolutely no idea that Frederiksen was anything but another middle-aged woman out with her family and friends to pick out a Christmas tree—which is in fact precisely what she was.
Denmark for the win.
I am ardently opposed to Mette Frederiksen’s political agenda. I am no fan of her leadership, of what she has done to this country in the name of covid, and in the name of the green transition, or in the name of anything else. I think of her the way I used to think of Nancy Pelosi (pre-derangement): as a formidable adversary who would best serve my interests by retiring. Someone whose strengths and skills I can freely acknowledge even though I hate what they’re doing with them—the way Jets fans probably thought of Tom Brady during his reign with the Patriots.
That much said, I am also ardently a fan of self-governing republics in which elected leaders move about their peers—and every citizen of Denmark is a peer of the prime minister, if not the Queen. I therefore take great pleasure to live in a nation where my family and I can bump into the head of state while buying our Christmas tree.
Even if we end up behind her in line at the gift shop and she takes forever at the register.
Friday was the coldest day of the year, according to multiple Danish news sources.
DR has a photo montage of the year’s coldest day.
It’s not really a big deal—it was cold, but nothing like the vicious and dangerous kind of cold I’ve experienced in the American midwest. But it was certainly unpleasant and it was cold enough that we had to jump start our car Saturday morning.
According to NOAA, the northern hemisphere is experiencing significantly higher than average snow cover—the 4th highest in the last 57 years. And the trend over that period has been for increasing snow cover from year to year and decade to decade. (But don’t worry: sea ice has been decreasing during the same period, so global warming hysteria can continue unabated. Of course an “overheating earth” is going to produce more snow, what else would you expect—for snowfall to become a thing of the past?)
We’ve had snow on the ground in greater Copenhagen for a while now, but there’s a warm front moving in along with a lot of moisture: a white Christmas seems unlikely despite our having had a mostly white December to this point.
I’m still dreaming of a white Christmas, but expecting one that’s merely soggy.
The “word of the year” has been announced in both America and Denmark.
In America, Merriam-Webster gave the honor to “gaslighting.” Runners-up included oligarch, omicron, codify, and LGBTQIA (which is an acronym, not a word, and ought to be replaced with “non-straight” since that’s all it really means at this point).
The Danish Language Authority chose “Kyiv” over also-rans relating to inflation, energy, energy prices, and the suffix -shaming (especially in conjunction with energy-related terms).
Merriam-Webster reportedly counts how many times a word’s definition was looked up on their site; the Danish Language Authority accepts nominations and then has a Byzantine internal process for sorting through the nominations and choosing a winner.
It’s fun to try and come up with your own word of the year. Choosing the word isn’t the fun part: choosing your methodology is.
I’ll use myself as an example, because it’s easier than using you as an example.
If I try to pick the word that best encapsulates 2022 for my own personal household, it would have to be håndværker. That’s Danish for contractor, or really any manual laborer, and when our family looks back on 2022 it’s always going to be “oh yeah, that was the year of the renovations.” So why isn’t the word of the year “renovation?” Because “renovations” are an abstraction: håndværkere are a very intrusive reality.
If I polled the family—Herself, Eldest, and Youngest—I’m not sure I’d get the same result.
If I made my selection process more personal, I’d probably choose a word related to the stupid foot injury I sustained in August that had me tethered to the health system until November.
Or I could broaden the lens and look for a word that I felt best characterized the impact my family and I felt from the wider world around us this year. That would have to be a word related to the successive body slams we received in the form of our natural gas bills. Certainly we’ve felt the pain of inflation, and every tank-up of our car is a gut punch, but the cost to heat our home increased by multiples and wasn’t cheap to begin with. My word of the year in that respect would therefore have to be something related to stupidity or arrogance. Because it wasn’t Putin’s invasion of Ukraine that made the heating of my home an impoverishing proposition: it was our collective stupidity (a point I’ve made often enough on this blog not to bother getting any deeper into it).
Interestingly enough, the cause of my foot injury could probably also be said to have involved a certain amount of personal stupidity. (Pro tip: don’t try to move a massive sofa on a dolly by yourself—if you must, however, don’t do it in bare feet.)
And for all the intrusiveness of the håndværkere who invaded our home for months, it wasn’t their presence that we felt so much as the consequence of their stupid mistakes. They were mostly very good, and mostly pretty competent, but they were also entirely human—and as humans they inevitably made some pretty boneheaded mistakes, many of which complicated our lives for days, weeks, or months.
In fact, whether I look at the entire world, or just Denmark, or my household, or even my own little life, I can’t see a better candidate for 2022’s “word of the year” than stupidity.
That’d be dumhed in Danish. Dumbness. Which is nice because it sounds even stupider than stupidity.
Western efforts to prevent Putin’s invasion of Ukraine: stupid and therefore ineffective.
Western efforts to get Putin out of Ukraine: ineffective and therefore stupid.
Global efforts to go green faster than our infrastructures allow: stupid and suicidal.
Discontented Americans and Danes going to the polls in November to express their dissatisfaction by voting for more of the same: stupid, stupid, stupid.
So both personally and universally, that’s my word for the year.
And the frontrunner as my word of the decade.
It’s less than a week to Christmas at this point—like most Danes, we celebrate on Christmas Eve.
It’s going to be a busy week professionally and personally as we wrap up the year and prep for the holiday break, so although I’ll keep blogging there won’t be time for audio until the other side of Christmas.