fbpx A Defense of Winter and the Custom of "Hygge"
Authored by Nexus Family Healing on October 6, 2022

I’ve always loved winter. 

To be fair, there is a lot to dislike about this season – I, along with many people, dread the long cold nights, icy roads, and minimal sunlight. 

But despite these setbacks, I still look forward to fall and winter. Maybe it’s because of happy family memories like celebrating the holidays, or outdoor activities like sledding and ice-skating. Or maybe it’s the fashion; my winter uniform is usually the largest sweater I can find combined with leggings. I like the gloomy, snowy days and the sense of peace that accompanies them. When temperatures start to drop, I always look forward to the first snowfall. 

However, I think the reason why I love winter so much is because it’s an opportunity for stillness. We all struggle to find moments of stillness, whether our stressors are work, kids, school, etc., and that need to rush seems to be most prevalent in summer. Growing up in Minnesota, it’s basically illegal to “waste” a good weather day – summer is spent outside, filled with activities, and connecting with friends and family. While summer and its busyness is a blessing, winter can be the perfect time to just be still.

Hygge in the Winter

A year ago, I came across the Danish custom of “hygge” (pronounced “hoo-gah”). “Hygge” doesn’t have an exact translation in English. According to The New Yorker article where I first came across the term, a close translation is “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” The feelings I experience in winter of safety, comfort, and community are in line with hygge.

There are many ways to practice hygge, with one huge aspect being atmosphere. Having a comfortable, safe place to call home is crucial for hygge, as it’s the set up that leads to the other aspects of hygge. I absolutely abhor overhead fluorescent lighting – it’s harsh, uncomfortable, and I am convinced it was invented to keep us all “productive” (i.e., stressed and tired). I put strong focus on the atmosphere of my home and keeping it a comfortable, relaxing environment. Candles are a great option and my go-to. They are relatively affordable, double as decoration, and can invigorate more than one of your senses. Other enjoyable lighting could also be twinkle lights, salt lamps, or sunset lamps – the options are endless. 

Another aspect (my favorite) is food and drink. Food is community – it brings people together, which is crucial for hygge. While comfort food may not always be the most nutritious, it certainly makes us feel good and fosters feelings of warmth and joy. Think things like hot cocoa, mulled wine (warmed up red wine with fruit and spices added in – it’s fabulous), coffee, combined with your favorite comfort foods (maybe a childhood favorite like mac and cheese) can really create that sense of coziness.

Hygge and Togetherness

One of the last but most important aspects mentioned is community combined with presence – being in the here and now, with people who make you feel loved and comfortable. That could be children, your partner, parents, a pet, and close friends. Putting “we before me” is the most crucial aspect of this custom. In a society that rewards individualism, think about the people who matter most to you and just enjoy the slowness and stillness of their presence on a cold winter’s night – put your phone down, relax in your comfortable lighting and good food, and feel the ease of being with those you consider your community. 

At the end of the day, do winter and fall the way you want to. If you have negative feelings and anxiety towards these seasons and the weather that they entail, embrace those feelings; they are valid. But if you are looking for a way to help cope with the coming winter, maybe give hygge a try and see if it can help change your outlook and ease some of the negative feelings with the changing seasons.

This blog post was written by Grace Peck, Marketing and Communications Assistant at Nexus Family Healing.

Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health servicesfoster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 50 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.