I’ve written on this topic before, but I wanted to add some thoughts and share again, because I think we need it. I need it. I seem to have developed a growing disenchantment with the holiday season. American consumerism is busy crossing holidays off the list making it nearly impossible to slow down and enjoy the season itself. It’s reached a new level of crazy. Back to school season is post Memorial day. Halloween season is post 4th of July. By October 1st, Candy Corn is replaced with Reindeer Corn (gross), and at exactly 12:01am on November 1st, radio channels have already started playing 18 versions of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Thanksgiving has been entirely displaced by Christmas, and by December 26th it’s all gone and in case you missed it, you have approximately one more week to enjoy anything because come January 1st, you’re bullied and food shamed into forsaking anything indulgent because bikini season is right around the corner. What about the season? We front load our holiday season with a hard deadline of January 1st. We need to turn crazy into cozy, because there’s a long, cold, dark winter ahead. I’m taking back the season.
A couple years ago I made it my winter mission to battle SADness…Seasonal Affective Disorder, that is. You know, the winter time blues. I’ve come to the point in my life where I’ve acknowledged that it’s not the cold, it’s the darkness. Tis the season to leave a late Saturday brunch and the 3:30pm sun is already low in the sky making way for a 4:25pm sunset. So I started digging. I figured, there are plenty of Northern countries with far worse winters and way less winter daylight than the Midwest, and these countries were not only surviving winter, but actually seemed to be thriving. The Scandinavian countries continually make the lists of happiest nations – so what are they doing all winter?
Then, I found it. Danish Hygge. Leave it to the Scandinavians to get something else right. While I was sulking the sun was setting at 4:22pm, the Danes were lighting candles, wrapping up in blankets and pouring gløgg when the sun sets at 2:22pm – and enjoying every minute of it. Skål! Their Scandinavian cousin countries have similar practices. The term’s Norwegian origin relates to “wellbeing,” and roughly translates into “togetherness” or “coziness” in English. However, hygge is less about meaning, and more about feeling. Think Christmas Eve vibes all winter long. Blankets. Lots of candles. Rich, savory meals. Hot Chocolate. Wine. Family. Friends. Games. More candles. More blankets.
Easy on paper, but the cultural implications don’t translate well on American soil. Taking time off for togetherness on cold winter nights to sit around being cozy and actually doing nothing except eating, drinking and being merry? On a regular basis rather than just on holidays? It’s so not American. We move too fast for hygge. We’re too obsessed with our New Year’s resolutions and strict regimented diets and schedules. It’s a change of pace, and it’s slow. It’s an emotion, and it’s intimate. It’s a mood, and it’s achievable if you are willing. And it is good for you. It is good for your soul, for your well-being.
So, I made a choice to embrace winter with hygge. I light candles at dusk. I pour a glass of wine, and I cook a slow, savory dinner. I pause, I stop, and I reflect. I snuggle and laugh. It’s the highlight of my day. It’s euphoria…and it’s winter. Purposeful, meaningful coziness with friends and family.
Purposeful coziness? What a happy notion. America needs cozy. America needs hygge.