Think globally; gift locally

Editor’s Notes: A message from Editor-in-chief Emily C. Skaftun

Cross-stitch in a Nordic pattern that reads "hygge as fuck" (though part of the word "fuck" has been blurred
Photo: Emily C. Skaftun
One of my craft projects that may or may not end up a Christmas gift and a pretty good expression of how I feel heading into the holidays—cozy but also grumpy and sometimes foul-mouthed.

Sitting here in my office, a week into into November, it’s hard for me to believe that the holiday season is upon us again. It is, though. In my local Safeway, Halloween candy was shunted aside on Nov. 1, with candy canes taking its place. Starbucks holiday cups are out.

And so, the holiday onslaught begins, at least corporately.

I mean, here I am producing a large issue full of things you can buy, things you can wrap them with, ways to decorate the tree you’ll buy (or cut?) to put them under. They’re available online! They ship right to you!

And yet, there’s a part of me that wonders whether buying and shipping objects to give to everyone on our list is the ideal way to celebrate the holiday that is the very essence of hygge. It’s not a radical thought. Many have bemoaned the commercialization of the holiday. But what can we do?

There are always options. If you feel so inclined, you can make people gifts rather than buy them. Last year I re-took up cross-stitch after many years of idleness, and soon realized that the only thing more satisfying than making a cute (or subversive) design is making one for a loved one.

Not everyone is crafty—but fortunately a lot of people are! You can give handmade gifts very easily if you use other people’s hands. No, don’t kidnap that knitter you know. But do visit a craft fair or bazaar! We’ve listed about a zillion of these on our calendar page (, but there are a zillion more. Some of them aren’t even Nordic!

The cool thing about buying something at one of these fairs is that you’re probably buying it from the person who made it. You can chat with them, learn a bit about their process, and make a human connection—you know your money is supporting a human being, in addition to your gift delighting its recipient.

Another way to support real human beings is to shop local. Sometimes, you can even do that while keeping it Nordic. Most of the items in this gift guide are sold by one or more of the incredible Nordic shops all over the country. We’re aware of quite a few such shops, but not all. There’s probably one near you (and if there is, and we don’t seem to be aware of it, please let us know!).

When I was a kid, my dad used to procrastinate on Christmas. Being Norwegian, we would celebrate on Juleaften (Christmas Eve), and often on that morning we would go down to Ballard (the Norwegian neighborhood in Seattle), and he would sit me in a Scandinavian bakery while he went around to the neighborhood shops to buy our gifts.

As an adult, I’ve fallen back into a similar pattern with my own shopping. I don’t wait until the 24th of December to do it, but I usually find a day to go down to Ballard and wander up and down Market Street and Ballard Avenue looking into all the little shops. Some have been there forever, while some change every year.

What I like most about the ritual is how it lets me keep in touch with the neighborhood I grew up in on at least a yearly basis. Most of the shops in Ballard are still locally owned, small businesses, and I like that spending money there supports a community that, while arguably not as Norwegian as it once was, is still home.

This article originally appeared in the November 16, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.