Happy Holiday

If you subscribe to Disneyland’s claim of “the happiest place on earth”, you’re really talking about the several happiest places on earth.  Besides the original parks in California and Florida you now have more exotic locales like Tokyo, Shanghai, and Paris – a total of twelve Disney theme parks across the globe.  Now throw in Hawaii’s Aulani (Disney) Resort & Spa for a baker’s dozen.  But do a search on “the happiest place on earth” and nothing remotely close to the lands of Disney comes up.  Instead, you get the land of the Finns.

Maybe you haven’t heard of the World Happiness Report? I have. I first blogged about it five years ago in my post, Happy Days Aren’t Here Again.  Back then I wasn’t lamenting the fact the UN established a rather desperate-sounding holiday (“International Day of Happiness” – March 20th).  Rather, I was un-happy the United States ranked #14 in the holiday’s companion report.  Thirteen countries, including #1 Norway, were happier places on earth.  To make matters worse, the U.S. had been slipping in the happiness rankings since the first report in 2013.  This year?  The Americans dropped again, to #16.

The Northern Lights make me happy

An objective report on happiness sounds a little ridiculous but when one country (Finland) ranks “happiest” five years running, you sit up and wonder what you’re missing with Laplander life. Consider the variables in the happiness report calculation:

  1. Healthy life expectancy
  2. GDP (goods and services) per capita
  3. Social support in times of trouble
  4. Low corruption
  5. High social trust
  6. Generosity to the community
  7. Freedom to make key life decisions
Cold = contentment?

Maybe you assume Finland’s proximity to Ukraine (and Russia) puts it in a nonpareil position to earn high marks for say, “social support” and “generosity to the community”.  But this year’s rankings were determined before Russia’s invasion.  Finland was already socially supportive and generous (and apparently “happy”).  So, does Finland come to mind when you consider the list above?  It doesn’t for me, but I will say this. The Finns enjoy day-to-day living. On a Baltic Sea cruise a few years ago we spent several hours in the capitol city of Helsinki, where we had the chance to observe the locals.  What were they doing? Sunning themselves in the parks on an unusually warm day. Shopping in open-air markets.  Children walking home from school unattended.  Peace and quiet wherever you looked.  Happiness.

Eight of the ten “happiest” are on this map

Let’s visit some of the other happier-than-America countries.  There must be something good in Baltic Sea water because Norway, Sweden, and Denmark also make the top ten.  Iceland skates in at #3, which almost makes for a clean (and happy) sweep of the Nordic countries.  Switzerland (#4) and New Zealand (#10) are also “happiest”, and I can think of several reasons to spend time in both places.

As the song goes, “don’t worry, be happy”, but I confess I’m a little concerned about happiness here in America.  We need to step up our feel-good game from more than just Disney theme parks.  Maybe post those seven criteria on our refrigerators as regular reminders. Or, spend more time in saunas like the Finns do.  Otherwise, it may be time to pick up and move further north.  After all, happiness beckons.

Some content sourced from the CNN Travel article, “The World’s Happiest Countries for 2022, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #16

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

Every piano keyboard demands a cover to keep it clean. Bag #16 – of 21 bags of pieces – was entirely dedicated to the protection of the keys.  As the photos show, the keyboard cover hinges gracefully up and down, blending seamlessly with the rest of the black piano frame.

A word about leftover pieces (another 3 this week).  I need to be more thankful they’re “leftover” and not “missing”.  I swear I was shorted an important piece this time around (and maybe I really did swear).  But as usual, there it was in plain view in my pile of pieces.  I’m grateful to the human or the machine making sure every last piece was included in my Lego Grand Piano box.

Running Build Time: 12.0 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Leftover pieces: 3

Conductor’s Note: Peter (or Pyotr, if you prefer) Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was an interesting choice for this week’s build, because I completed the keyboard cover before 8:30am.  If you know the Overture, you know it’s fortíssimo, like an alarm clock firing on all cylinders.  It’s a blast better meant for an Independence Day fireworks celebration (and some orchestras add a real cannon for the finale). The Overture is also brisk; a mere sixteen minutes from start to finish.  I wasn’t that quick with the keyboard cover build, but I did wrap it up in less than a half-hour.

34 thoughts on “Happy Holiday

    1. Lego also places its logo front and center on the inside of the keyboard cover, so when it’s raised you can’t help but see it. Of course, most anyone would know this is a Lego original without the logo.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi, Dave. I hope I’ll visit at least one Scandanavian nation before my time is up. They all are very appealing to me. And if I do visit, I sure would like to see the Northern Lights. I’ve wanted to see those lights for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too, Neil. The Lights would be the icing on the cake but I’d be happy just to return to Finland and Sweden, and see Norway for the first time. The lifestyle of Nordic countries seems healthy and happy – my cup of tea.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to admit, I’ve only been to the southernmost regions of Finland (Helsinki) and Sweden (Stockholm). Both countries – and Norway – extend way, way north, so I expect it’s a whole lot colder in those parts. Can’t even imagine the temps in Iceland!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. How about a Lego sauna? Knowing them, it would even function like the real thing. You could put a few fingers in for a quick steam bath any time you felt like it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think enough of our politicians are asking themselves, “What will contribute to the pursuit of happiness for my constituents,” and using that question to guide their policy-decisions. Then again, many Americans are focused on pleasure and pleasing themselves, neither of which contribute to deep down happiness–just ask King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 2:1-10). We’re much better off seeking joy. “Joy is not the absence of suffering but the presence of God” (Barbara Johnson, Boundless Love, p. 200).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good. But that… proved to be meaningless.” Such a powerful lesson on what it means to be content, Nancy. And you make a great point about politicians. They’ve long forgotten the words of our forefathers, even though they’re right there, jumping off the page of the Declaration of Independence!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have heard of this report. I thought they don’t get much sunlight in the winter so they would cause some unhappiness, but I guess not. I want to drag Jon to Norway/Finland one day, but that’s not at the top of his list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My parents were big travelers, Lyssy, seeking as many countries as they could see in a lifetime. Norway was one of the very few where they said “we’d go back in a heartbeat”. I’ve only seen Helsinki in Finland and Stockhold in Sweden (and never Norway) but my appetite has been stoked. Pick the right time of year and stay close to the Baltic Sea and you’ll surely witness the Nordic brand of happiness.

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  4. #4 & #7 seem especially pertinent this week. I’ve been to Disney World in Orlando, but not the other Disney happiest places on earth. Finland sounds like a cool country to visit, if we’re talking about real places that are happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dave, I read this book a few years ago, by the CEO of The Happiness Project in Denmark, which explains the reasons for the high happiness rating the Scandinavians countries enjoy, which has a lot to do with their social programs (people don’t seem to mind the higher taxation rate if they don’t have to worry about basic things, similar to here in Canada where we have more social safety nets/programs). It was an enjoyable, if light and fluffy read. The Little Book of Lykke. He also wrote the Little Book of Hygge first. The print in the books was very small as I remember, as the books were small, so best on an e-reader I think to avoid eye-strain. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34879265-the-little-book-of-lykke

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I discovered The Little Book of Hygge in an upscale California spa a few years ago, Joni, and purchased it on the spot after reading just a few pages. It’s an interesting – if simple – approach to life, and surely contributes to the high happiness ratings in Denmark. The correlation to government-provided social programs makes sense too.

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  6. Dave, in 1983 I took a three-week Scandinavian and Russia trip with Maupintour. We had our same tour guide throughout and a special tour guide in each country. You are right about carefree and taking the time to enjoy life, not the hustle and bustle of living we are immersed in (or were pre-COVID). I’m not just mentioning the fact of being on a vacation where tour operators seek to show you the best of each city or country. Most of the locals I met spoke perfect English, so wherever we went, except the week in Russia, we didn’t need the tour guide to translate for us. English as a second language is wonderful and too bad we are not like the Europeans who speak their native tongue and fluent English. I also took that short (overnight) Baltic Sea Cruise and spent the day in Helsinki at the Market and Sibelius Monument before boarding a train to Leningrad. A different way of life. A fellow blogger’s daughter lives and works in Denmark and just became a Danish citizen a few months ago. As for the piano, leftovers are good at Thanksgiving but not when building Lego pianos, but better than missing pieces as you say. 🙂

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    1. Our Baltic Sea cruise started in Denmark, Linda, and since we were still getting used to the time change our tour of Copenhagen (part by boat) was a bit hazy. But we liked what we saw, and wanted more time to see Denmark outside of the city limits. Like you, I believe I saw a true reflection of Finnish R&R when we stopped in Helsinki, even if it was just a glimpse. Come to think of it, the people I passed on the streets of Stockholm seemed similarly relaxed and content. These countries are on to something. As for the leftover Legos, I’ll be reluctant to part with them once the piano is complete, but sadly they have no place in the finished product.

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      1. [Dave – for some reason, whenever you comment to me on YOUR blog, it never shows up in my notifications area. Today I was thinking about you when a story about Finland was on the news. So I came here and I apologize for not responding more timely. I am always behind in Reader, but usually keep up with comments.] Our last leg of our trip, was four days spent in Denmark. It was fun as our last night was Midsummer’s Night Eve and our hotel was across from Tivoli Gardens. People were out in the streets, singing, laughing at all hours of the night – not raucous, no police presence. Everyone was happy in those Scandinavian countries – very polite too.

        I followed a blogger from Finland for a year or so and he has stopped blogging or I’d send you a link to his blog. He lived in Finland all his life (and was in his 80s if I remember correctly). He had some awesome photos as photography was a hobby for him. He mentioned often that Finns were always a happy lot because every home, no matter how small, had a sauna and it is a daily ritual for entire families. He did not understand the American way of life where families do not eat together or make an effort to spend time together within the home. Something amazing about this gentleman is that he translated each blog post into several languages. He told me he did not use a Google translator or something comparable. He painstakingly typed paragraph by paragraph into different languages. He spoke and read five or six languages. I found that amazing. He told me he had to stop writing so many posts as his wife asked if he was married to her or his blog. 🙂

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      2. I think you and your Finnish blogger friend touched on something important. Our culture doesn’t promote a second language, especially not at a young age. If we did, maybe we’d be more in tune with other countries and cultures, and adopt some of their “best practices” instead of assuming the American way of life is the only way. Nobody would argue with families spending more time together and yet we don’t, because other choices for spending time are considered just as important. Kind of sad, and perhaps why we’re not a “happier” country.

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  7. My grandma and her sisters were of Norwegian stock, and I must say that part of the family was full of happy, fun people.

    And who doesn’t love the 1812 Overture!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Nice to get a little validation on Nordic happiness. Yes, all credit to Tchaikovsky and his banging, clanging Overture. Hard to believe the same composer came up with Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.

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  9. Dave – I remembered how to find this Finnish blogger’s name – I sent him a post I did on my trip to Russia and the Scandinavian countries which I published before I followed him. He looks to still be on a blogging pause, but there are some amazing pics when you have some free time. He and his wife used to hike together all the time. No wonder they live so long – healthy living!
    https://sartenada.wordpress.com/about/

    Liked by 1 person

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