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Eating by Candlelight

The sun sets here right now at 4:16 pm. That means the dusk gathers about 3:30. We’re in total darkness when we sit down to dinner.

Those summer days of eating dinner on the back deck, in our short sleeves, at 7 pm, feel like a long time ago now.

Danny and I noticed that our daughter’s interest in eating dinner diminished with the light in the sky. After all, you don’t really have the urge to eat in the middle of the night until college, generally.

Instead of struggling through dinner, urging her to eat for the energy she gets from food, we decided to make life easier. We put a cluster of candles on the table.

A good friend of ours is now living in Denmark, after marrying a Danish man. In the Scandinavian countries, darkness descends even earlier than in the Pacific Northwest, if that’s possible. Her first winter there? She’s surviving it thanks to hygge.

What the heck is hygge? It’s a Danish word that can’t be translated, of course. But here is the official Danish tourist board’s attempt:

“Gather the family and invite over a couple of good friends. Push the sofas and chairs up close to the coffee table. Douse the electricity and light some candles. Better yet, light a fire in the hearth.
Serve plenty of food and drink. Raise a toast or two, or three, and feel the warmth flow around the table. Look at each other until you see the candlelight shimmering in each other’s eyes. You’ve got hygge!”

That’s what our friend Kristin told us about her life in Denmark now. “When you light a lot of candles and put them in the window, life feels better. And you’re letting your friends know they are welcome to come in.”

And so we lit candles at the dinner table.

Now, I’d love to say that we made a graceful arrangement of tasteful candles, carefully chosen. A table full of Glassybaby candle holders might make this photo Pinterest worthy. I don’t know about you, but a table full of glass holders at $45 each just isn’t feasible here.

Instead, we grabbed clean jam jars, tomato sauce jars, and half-pint mason jars. We plopped tea light candles from Ikea in each one and let our daughter help us light them.

She didn’t care what the candle holders looked like. She just loved the light flickering against the darkness.

Lucy ate her dinner happily that night, all of it, chattering.

We’ve been lighting candles against the darkness every evening since. Danny and I both agree: we’re pretty excited by this simple cluster of homemade candleholders too.

4:16 is too early for darkness. We make our own light this time of the year.

You can find more of Shauna and Danny’s recipes, essays, photographs and words of comfort about living gluten-free at Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. Shauna shares food ideas and answers questions on Twitter. She also pins photographs and recipes on Pinterest and Foodily. There’s a great community at the Facebook fan page for Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef.

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