THE WORD: Gluggaveður

While winter might not offer up the best weather, it surely has some of the best views, from forests glittering with frost to mountaintops blanketed in snow. Too bad you can’t have one without the other… or can you? In Iceland, the term gluggaveður – literally meaning ‘window weather’ – proposes exactly that: gazing out at the stunning snowglobe world from the comfort of the indoors, appreciating the visuals while staying sheltered from the biting winds and bone-cold wet. But more than a word, gluggaveður is a contemplative practice. The harsh plunging temperatures outside create the ideal opportunity to stay cosy inside, engaging in a bit of quiet contemplation, appreciation and calm. So, whether you’re staying home or taking a holiday jaunt aboard a magical winter train, open the curtains, grab a warm drink, wrap up in your snuggest blanket, and enjoy the beauty of gluggaveður. Jack Frost certainly won’t be nipping at your nose.

 Perfect If: You love winter… but you also hate winter.

THE FILM(S): Maestro and All of Us Strangers

Sometimes, you just want a feel-good Christmas romcom to get you through a cold December day. Other times, all that snowflake schmaltz and Christmas magic can seem a tad too twee. The antidote? A moving drama with depth, substance and Oscar potential. This month, we’re adding two such movies to our cinematic wish list:  Maestro and All of us Strangers. The former is a riveting biopic directed by and starring Bradley Cooper as the renowned conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein, chronicling the ups and downs of his lifelong relationship with actress Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein (Carey Mulligan). The latter is a surreal story about a screenwriter (Andrew Scott) who, as he develops a relationship with a mysterious neighbour (Paul Mescal), finds himself drawn to his childhood home – only to find his parents living just as they were 30 years ago on the day they died. We’re already getting the popcorn ready.

Perfect If: One more Hallmark movie about a woman finding her Christmas prince will push you over the deep end.

THE EVENT: Festive Winter Markets

Sipping mulled wine, snacking on spiced treats and perusing handcrafted trinkets while a local musical act serenades with seasonal songs? Yes, please! Nothing can summon the festive spirit quite like a traditional Christmas market, and in this year of ongoing ‘revenge travel’, we expect the holiday market scene to be livelier and more magical than ever in Europe’s most romantic cities and idyllic towns. See the snow sculptures in Tallinn, go mediaeval in Munich, enjoy brass band holiday tunes in Salzburg, travel to Victorian times in Portsmouth, stroll among the twinkling lights of Strasbourg’s Alsatian houses, experience a Catalan Christmas in Barcelona. If a ticket to Europe isn’t in the cards for you this year, don’t despair – the Christmas market concept has caught on all over the world, from Sydney to Singapore. Perhaps there’s an undiscovered winter market closer to your neck of the woods?

Perfect If: You can’t get enough of that holiday cheer – and the mall Santa just doesn’t cut it anymore.

THE SHOW: Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Step into the enchanting world of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, a captivating fantasy tale coming to the small screen on Disney+. It’s true: previous attempts to bring author Rick Riordan’s incredibly popular book series to life have fallen flat (see: The Lightning Thief – no wait, don’t go see it), but this revival is set to right their wrongs: spearheaded by producer-director Jonathan E. Steinberg and Riordan himself, the series promises to offer a fresh perspective. So follow Percy, the 12-year-old modern demigod, as he embarks on a quest to restore order in Olympus after Zeus’ lightning bolt is stolen. Streaming from 20 December.

Perfect If: You’re a Greek mythology buff always looking for new content – or a Percy Jackson fan who was massively disappointed by the films.

THE BOOK: All the Little Bird-Hearts

If you’re looking to end this year on the right note, a heartwarming book might be just the thing. Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow’s poignant debut novel is a poetic yet vivacious tale about motherhood, written from the POV of an autistic woman as she and her teenage daughter make friends with a seemingly charming couple – who turn out to have dark ulterior motives. Longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize, All the Little Bird-Hearts has already been moved to the top of our (exceedingly long) reading list.

Perfect If: It’s been a long time since you’ve read something that feels different.

THE HOLIDAY GUILTY PLEASURE: A Disturbance in the Force

Did you sense it? After premiering at South by Southwest in March, Jeremy Coon and Steve Kozak’s A Disturbance in the Force comes to streaming and Blu-ray on 5 December. The comical, nostalgic documentary retraces the history of how and why the notoriously terrible two-hour 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special ever got made – yeah, that one, which even the late Carrie Fisher deemed “so bad that it’s not good.” Featuring archival footage and interviews with the likes of Kevin Smith, Weird Al Yankovic, Seth Green and Bonnie Burton, as well as clips from contemporary shows like Donny & Marie that offer a taste of the cultural atmosphere at the time, the documentary attempts to plumb TV and Star Wars history to explain the existence of a special that has, in the 45 years since its debut, been universally described as “painful to watch.”

Perfect If: You have a galactic craving for iconic TV trash and no fear of joining the Dark Side of good taste for 86 minutes – whether you are Force-sensitive or not.

THE OCCASION: Gingerbread House Day

In this month of endless engagements, it can feel like all we do is run from event to event, shop to shop, gathering to gathering. While it’s wonderful to celebrate, to reconnect with people, to give gifts and receive them, it can also become quite draining. We recommend carving out some time to slow down and enjoy the simpler pleasures of the festive season – like Gingerbread House Day. Observed on 12 December, this just-for-fun holiday is an excuse to gather in the kitchen with your closest cadre, filling your home with the scent of warm spices as you bake up a delicious batch of gingerbread and build your own house – or village! – to be decorated to your hearts’ content. Got a bigger crowd? Make it a competition to see who can build the prettiest, the funniest or the most creative gingerbread abode. A bit short on time, but still keen to construct? There’s no shame in reaching for a ready-made gingerbread house kit. This is about spending time together and having fun – nothing more, nothing less.

Perfect If: You’ve been looking for a festive activity that combines creativity, teamwork and tasty treats.

THE DRINK: Seasonal Martinis

‘Tis the season to be jolly and get shaking! Whether you’re hosting a big crowd or keeping it quiet this year, nothing will lift your spirits and warm your belly like a yummy holiday treat in a martini glass – and when we say ‘holiday treat’, we mean any holiday treat. Love candy canes? Try a peppermintini. Have a keen sweet tooth? Leave the baked goods for Santa and make yourself a sugar cookie martini. Can’t go without your daily java? A whipped coffee martini will have you wrapping gifts at warp speed. Celebrating Gingerbread House Day? Pair it with a spiced gingerbread man-tini – only for thematic consistency, of course. And if your little ones are joining for cocktail hour, swap the gin for chocolate milk. Cheers!

Perfect If: Eggnog isn’t your seasonal cup of tea.

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