THE WORD: Gezellig
Similarly to the better-known Danish hygge, the Dutch word gezellig (pronounced with two guttural Gs), describes a cosy or pleasant atmosphere. However, as a major part of Dutch culture and tradition, its applications expand beyond cuddly nights on the sofa with blankets and candles. Gezellig might be used to talk about a place (gezellig café), a party with a good vibe (gezellig feestje), or even a person or an experience (“Het was gezellig vanavond!” – “We had a great time tonight!”). Interestingly, it can also be used in a sarcastic way (“I like how you play videogames all night, gezellig!”), and there’s an antonym, ongezellig, which describes a cold, uninviting place, as well as people who are not being social or convivial. So, this holiday season, don’t be ongezellig. Turn off your phone, light some candles, and join in the gezelligheid with friends and family.
Perfect If: You need a word to describe how it feels to finally be together again this holiday season. Very gezellig indeed.
THE POETRY: Call Us What We Carry: Poems, by Amanda Gorman
Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, our generation’s most promising poet! Was that cheesy? Well, we never claimed to have Amanda Gorman’s poetic talent. This December, the talented young activist and poet who made headlines reciting her work at US President Joe Biden’s inaugural ceremony (yes, that’s where you know her from) will be releasing her newest title, Call Us What We Carry, a poetry collection that captures the last two years of all of our lives – and reveals Gorman to be a poet of hope and reflection. A dazzling anthology by a true wordsmith, it’s one of the most highly acclaimed releases of the moment – so make sure to get your copy before it sells out.
Perfect If: You can’t quite put your feelings from the past two years into words, and you appreciate someone who can.
THE DOCUMENTARY: Puff: Wonders of the Reef
As humans, we are obsessed with everything small and adorable, from babies to kittens, miniature figurines to tiny houses. Puff: Wonders of the Reef more than satisfies our hunger for cuteness. In the film, a baby puffer fish serves as our guide to the nooks and crevices of the Great Barrier Reef. Endearing narrative aside, the film promises to be a visual feast, zooming in on the world’s most diverse ecosystem – quite literally, because the crew used advanced super macro techniques to reveal beauties and curiosities too small for the human eye to perceive. The film, directed by Australian nature filmmaker Nick Robinson, debuts on Netflix on 16 December, and is already being hailed as the successor to the popular My Octopus Teacher.
Perfect If: You just can’t get enough of the wonders under the sea.
THE GIFT: Your Time
In the annual rush to buy gifts for every friend, family member, coworker, estranged relative and their dog, it can be easy to forget that some of the most meaningful gifts are free. Cliché, we know, but also true. 5 December marks the UN-initiated International Volunteer Day, which aims to celebrate community volunteers the world over, while raising awareness of their important work and the challenges they face. Let it also be a reminder to all of us that we can make the biggest impact closest to home, by donating our time, skills and knowledge to the people and causes that need us – not just at the holidays, but all year round. Drive seniors to appointments and errands. Help out at your local library. Walk dogs at the animal shelter. Lend a hand in litter pick-up efforts. Join a voter registration drive. There’s a job for everyone. We promise.
Perfect If: You’re looking to reconnect with your community, but aren’t yet sure where to start.
THE SHOW: Station Eleven
Based on Emily St. John Mandel’s best-selling novel, HBO Max will premiere this post-apocalyptic miniseries – and its last show of the year – on 16 December. Station Eleven tells the story of how a handful of pandemic survivors try to cope and survive after a virus has wiped out most of humanity… which honestly, if it feels too close to home, it probably is. Somewhat ironically, filming of the series started before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and had to be put on hiatus for several months. Starring Mackenzie Davis and Himesh Patel, the story takes place across multiple timelines, and shows how ‘devastating’ and ‘hopeful’ can sometimes go hand in hand.
Perfect If: You’re looking for something compelling to binge-watch. Not so perfect if you aren’t yet emotionally ready to relive pandemic chaos.
THE BOOK: Beasts of a Little Land, by Juhea Kim
Beasts of a Little Land is the first published title from Juhea Kim, an artist, advocate and budding novelist. And oh, what a debut it’s set to be. Born in Korea, Kim moved to the USA at age nine, where she discovered her love of language and storytelling – and this book is a testament to that passion. Beasts of a Little Land tells the story of the impoverished son of a hunter and a girl who is sold to a courtesan school, two young people whose lives intertwine just as the Korean independence movement is taking place. An epic yet fun read set against the backdrop of a pivotal moment in time.
Perfect If: You finally have some time off and are in need of a truly great, if perhaps heart-wrenching, book.
THE SOUND: Snoop Dogg’s ‘The Algorithm’
November belonged to the divas, with Taylor setting Saturday Night Live (and the internet) alight, and Adele opening the emotional floodgates with 30, her first album in six years. But other things happened, too. For one, rapper-actor-entrepreneur Snoop Dogg released this collaborative album that bridges the generational divide, corralling talent from both the old guard (Mary J. Blige, Usher, Ice Cube) and the new (Blxst). Snoop says: “There’s so much talent on this record, so many styles of music, it breaks the algorithm. Right now, the algorithm is telling us you have to rap this way, you have to sound this way, but they’re not telling you how it’s supposed to feel. My algorithm is going to give you a feeling, not a sound.”
Perfect If: You’ve enjoyed watching the Doggfather reinvent himself over the years, and are curious to hear what he’s up to now.
THE REPORTAGE: Potential Space: A Serious Look at Child’s Play
Try defining ‘play’. It’s hard to put into words, because play can take on so many different forms. Yet we easily recognise it when we see it. In Potential Space: A Serious Look at Child’s Play, photographer Nancy Richards Farese captures what play looks like in 14 countries as diverse and different as Burkina Faso, Cuba, Haiti, Jordan and the US. In full colour, we see children universally engaging in this important activity, learning, exploring and bonding even under the most chaotic and dire of circumstances. Farese invites us to think about play and how it connects us all, as well as its possible threats, including technology, consumerism and even overparenting.
Perfect If: You remember your playing days well, and recognise how it is for little minds.
THE FILM: The Tragedy of Macbeth
Already a promising candidate for next year’s Oscars, this black-and-white adaptation is a raw combination of the famous Shakespearean tragedy and the aesthetics of German expressionism. Director Joel Coen, working without his brother Ethan for the first time, intended to create a stage adaptation before eventually transforming it into a film, drawing inspiration from Roman Polanski’s own version. With Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand playing Lord and Lady Macbeth, and featuring a soundtrack composed by Carter Burwell (The Big Lebowski, No Country For Old Men), The Tragedy of Macbeth will premiere in select theatres on 25 December and on Apple TV+ on 14 January 2022.
Perfect If: You’re down to see a reinvention of Shakespeare’s work making history on its own.
THE ADVENTURES: There and Back: Photographs from the Edge, by Jimmy Chin
Thrill-seekers and aesthetic devotees alike will marvel at the images within There and Back: Photographs from the Edge, featuring breathtaking images of the world’s most impressive climbers and explorers, all taken by Jimmy Chin throughout his decades of expeditions around the globe, from Tibet to Antarctica. You might know Mr. Chin from small independent projects and major publications like Free Solo and National Geographic; if you want to glimpse behind the scenes of his epic adventures, this book is the perfect way to sneak a peek. Plus, it’s just incredibly visually striking.
Perfect If: You’re planning your next big climb to take on the world’s most daunting peaks… or you just want to feel like you could.