We are now six days into 2019, and most of us are already back at work. As the clock struck midnight, many of us started the new year with promises of eating healthier, losing weight, exercising more, changing jobs or reducing waste, to name but a few. I certainly think it’s a good thing to reflect and set some goals as long as we don’t add too many challenges to our list. In my view, they should always be realistic and achievable, otherwise we are in danger of failing before we even reach the first hurdle.
Chimney sweeps and pigs symbolise ‘Good luck’ in Germany
In this blog, I’d like to focus on the German tradition of putting happiness and good luck at the centre of any new year’s celebrations – as it is in many other European countries. If you’ve been to Germany around New Year’s Eve, you might have noticed shops selling lots of decorations and confectionary in the shapes of chimney sweeps, pigs, four-leafed clovers, horseshoes or 1 Euro Cent coins. These are all symbols of good luck that originate from old beliefs and traditions. The chimney sweep, for example, comes from the Middle Ages, as it was more likely that your house would catch fire if the chimney hadn’t been swept. So, the chimney sweep became a symbol of good luck.
Have you pressed the ‘restart button’ yet?
When Germans are invited to a New Year’s Eve party, they would usually bring something like a marzipan or chocolate pig; the table would be adorned with chimney sweep hats and other objects that would bring luck for the new year. But what does luck or happiness really mean to us? How can we achieve it? Here’s my personal, and kind of philosophical answer as I’d like you to reflect on this when you press the ‘restart button’ in your life…
What makes me happy
I think I’m lucky to say that I’ve felt totally happy a few times in the past year, and these moments didn’t come from materialistic gains. They were the moments when I spent a few hours with my son on the beach on our North Sea holiday in Büsum last summer or when we visited the seaside resort of St Peter Ording. My son and I spent hours and hours building sandcastles and I managed to completely zoom out and immerse myself in a sandcastle building zone. At the beginning, I found myself creating a plan on how to build the castle until I figured out quite quickly that my son was just using his imagination and wasn’t intending to win a sandcastle competition. So, I followed his lead, which turned into some precious quality time together – full of memories.
Pets bring me happiness
I always feel totally happy when I’m walking my dog (without being plugged in to my phone). I’ve experienced these relaxing moments on numerous occasions last year while walking my West Highland Terrier Charlie around the beautiful fields close to my home. I particularly enjoy these walks in the spring when nature begins to wake up again, the sun is a little warmer as we get ready for the new season. I can be totally mindful during these moments. Although I might think things through, it’s always a great break – both physically and mentally.
Being outdoors is happiness
Another thing that brings me happiness is being outdoors with my family; surrounded by nature. As you know, we’re big fans of the North Sea and spend many of our holidays either on one of the German islands or on the coast in seaside towns like Büsum, where we spent our holiday last year.
I feel happy just walking along a beach, cycling, flying a kite or trying out new outdoor activities. I’m not particularly adventurous but now my son is eight, I’m open to trying out new activities with him – maybe learning how to surf or experiencing the joy of Segway.
Playing a board game is happiness
I can think of nothing better than coming together as a family or getting together with friends and playing some good old-fashioned board games. The colder months gives me the perfect excuse to snuggle up and read a book or watch my son use his wonderful imagination to build some amazing Playmobil or Lego scenes in my living room – being the tolerant mum that I am!
If you’re a parent yourself, you’ll know just how difficult it is to protect our children from the challenges of modern life and to teach them what is important. So, simple moments like playing a game is something I find very precious and makes me happy.
Happiness is not a goal – it’s an attitude
Personally, I think happiness is not something we should set as a goal, like ‘I’m going to be happy this year’. It’s more of an attitude that needs to change, and it doesn’t happen automatically. Take your time to think about the things that make you happy and then learn to appreciate these small things and passing moments. We are all guilty of getting so caught up in our busy lives that we miss these happy moments altogether.
Where is the connection to ‘Nadja’s Germany’, I hear you ask! This blog practically wrote itself, and I could have written much more! But I do appreciate that we don’t all have that much time to read endless blogs!
However, I would like to share this thought with you. I believe that we don’t always need to travel to the other side of the world to have a great time. It could be around your local area or in a neighbouring country like Germany (hint, hint😊) that can be places of happiness. It’s not about how much money you spend or what you do; it’s about the special moments you have with the people you are travelling with.
Germany’s landscape is diverse; with its mountains, lakes, rivers, seaside towns and small villages. I’m honestly convinced that just spending a long weekend or a week in Germany could create some very special memories for when you’re reflecting on 2019 this time next year.
I wish you a fabulous year ahead. In addition to happiness; good health is the most important wish I’d like to send, as many of us have sadly lost someone close in the past year. One more reason to be grateful if we have our health and one more reason to be mindful in 2019! Enjoy and celebrate some special moments; try to escape life’s rat race and take a moment to pause – either at home or on holiday!
Happy New Year! Ein glückliches neues Jahr!