With the many conflicting, heightened emotions that arise during the festive period, Christmas can be a mixed bag for most adults. It’s the season of happiness and sadness, unity and loneliness, anger and tolerance, war and peace. Hosting a Christmas gathering is never an easy feat; it’s like throwing a yin and yang yo-yo as we try to keep the perpetual motion of decency on track; in the hope of maintaining civil interactions and a sense of normality. Inevitably, the festive soiree begins to unravel as any underlying familial issues that have built up over the year start to emerge. Nevertheless, we tentatively march on, slightly fearful, but always hopeful.
I was born Anglo/Scandinavian, so have always had a Danish Christmas on the eve of the 24th and a traditional British Christmas on 25th. The celebrations are very different on the two days. As Danes, we like to Hygge. It’s all about the cosiness – candles, wooden tree decorations, open fires, handmade gifts, the colour red, and the smell of burnt Nordic pine fern. Then on the 25th, we get up early to rip open all the presents, then eat too many chocolates, have a massive Turkey lunch, pop the crackers and adorn colourful paper party hats while sharing bad jokes. The only time we ever all sit down to watch a TV programme together is when the Queen’s Speech on TV. It’s a time to be cheerful, a time to reflect and most importantly, a time to share with the ones we love.
Everyone copes with Christmas in different ways; some keep busy in the kitchen to avoid awkward conversations and conflict. Others will corner you in the corridor, demanding your full attention whilst relaying long, tedious stories that you already heard last year. Some get drunk to pass the time, while others sit quietly in the corner, hidden by a mountain of wrapping paper, wishing for it all to be over.
For me, it’s always been about Hygge and celebrating the birth of the most important human ever to walk the earth. I cherish every moment of our cosy family Christmases when we can all spend time together, despite our differences. That’s why I chose to do this series of portraits with the paper party hats; they represent the new-born king. Rather than taking traditional group shots, I wanted to celebrate each person’s character by photographing them individually or in couples with the common theme of the ‘paper crown’ running through the series.
In my eyes, the Christmas gathering is a reminder that we’re all beautifully individual and unique, and that despite our differences, we’re able to find common ground and shared values. All we have to do is let go of ‘the self’ and give everyone another chance.