Making winter like the Danes

Like Silverpebble, I am not a fan of winter - far too much mud and rain and greyness for my liking. But this year my aim is to embrace winter, to revel in all the good things and to do more than simply hide in the house and wait for spring to come.  Life is short, much too short to discount a whole season, and winter can be fun.  Even a spring fanatic like me would have to admit that every winter I do enjoy some things.  So my aim is to find more to love about winter and more ways of filling the winter days with good things.  To this end I think we could learn a lot from the Danes.

The Danes have a concept called hygge (pronounced hoogah).  Most articles I have found about hygge tell you that the word translates literally as cosiness but then immediately go on to explain that the whole idea is far more multilayered than that.  This blog, written by Alexandra Beauchamp who has a Danish mother and a French father, contains the most helpful explanation I have found and is a lovely read too.  So hygge seems to be about warmth and light, physical warmth in the glow of a fire and spiritual warmth in the company of people you love.

So how can I bring more hygge into my life?


More fire seems like a great idea.  Even an outside fire like this chases away the winter demons.  And we are lucky enough to have a woodburning stove which should clearly be lit every evening to fill the sitting room with the warmth and sound of a wood fire.


The Danes seem to be very big on candles too.  We have lots of candles but somehow we don't use them as often as we might.  I shall resolve to light them for the beauty of them instead of only when we have a power cut.



And for comfort we have cushions and blankets.  I should bring these out for the winter instead of keeping them for when someone is unwell.  Can you have too much cosiness? Probably not.


This is a little lap blanket which I made for the shepherd's hut but it is just the right size to use sitting by the fire in the house.  I have been making new cushions as well.  Perhaps my interest in hygge had kicked in without my being aware of it.



But in this house I don't see that you can have hygge without thinking about food: spicy soups, casseroles, pies and homemade bread.  We love our food up here and food is for sharing.  And that I think brings me to one of the most important aspects of Danish life.  Did you know that the Danes consistently report themselves as the happiest people in Europe?  And that seems to me to be partly at least because they are a society which relishes relationships and companionship.  In fact older Danish people object to the idea that you can have hygge on your own.  Young Danes would find hygge in a cup of hot chocolate by the fire by themselves.  The older generation would want you to share that moment with someone you love.  So food brings us to sharing and companionship.  It is easy up here to hunker down in winter and to see far less of our friends and neighbours.  I shall try this year to do more sharing of my warm and candlelit room with friends over good things to eat.

I have almost persuaded myself.  Maybe winter won't be so bad after all.  Have a look at silverpebble's blog about the idea of making winter and see what others are saying and doing about it.

Comments

  1. I love the idea. Really love the idea. And concur absolutely that life is too short to disregard a quarter of each year. More than that for me cos I don't much care for November either! With a newly built chimney and a wood burner I can now use, I reckon I (we) should join you.

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    1. Ah yes, I am with you on November, although for me February is worse because I somehow think it should almost be spring and it never is! Not this year though. I shall be too busy surrounding myself with hygge!

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  2. Great idea - find the happiness in the grey and dismal days of winter. What's not to enjoy?

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    1. Sounds so easy and right doesn't it? I hope it will be as easy to do!

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  3. I do get tired of the winter and its darkness quickly, but you definitely have the right attitude about it. If you work with what you have and make the most of the lovely things that surround you, there is joy to be had.

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    1. That is absolutely it. I am surrounded by good things, both inside and out, so it is up to me to make them sing!

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  4. I have 'The Year Of Living Danishly' by Helen Russell ready to read on my Kindle during these long dark nights. Wishing you a happy winter Elizabeth when it finally arrives :)

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    1. I really fancy that book Anna. Thanks for the recommendation. It is on my list!

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  5. Great post and great idea - we don't have winter as you know it here but I could still follow some of your ideas.

    I hope you enjoy your winter.

    One aspect that I miss is a winter Christmas - it just isn't the same down here.

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    1. I do so agree about warm Christmases Susan. We lived in New Zealand and it is a beautiful country but Christmas that was not in winter always felt quite wrong!

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  6. New blogger Annie Green posted today (nohatnogloves.wordpress.com) on Hunkering. Not quite Hygge, but if you read her post, I think you'll agree that it's related. Let's get cosy!

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    1. That is a lovely blog recommendation, thank you Frances. She is on my list!

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  7. I have been reading a lot about hygge too Elizabeth and do embrace it a lot already. We always have candles llit and fires roaring but I also think it is about being really aware of the good things as well. I hope we enjoy the coming season xx

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    1. I agree Pipany. Some of it is about doing things and some of it is simply about choosing what to pay attention to. In my case that will involved paying less attention to mud!

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  8. Hygge is a subject that is closely entwined with Making Winter. It is a sort of joy that envelops Denmark at this time of year and we can definitely learn from it. I've been lighting candles each evening and admit to swaddling myself in quilts and blankets on chilly summer days, never mind winter. At the moment I sit typing wrapped in two quilts, like a sort of textile-swathed sausage.

    Thankyou SO much for joining in Elizabeth. This is the perfect Making Winter post.

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    1. I love the idea of a textile swathed sausage Emma! It's great to be part of making winter so the thanks are due to you.

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  9. It seems I have always practiced "hygge" and didn't know until I read your post. I love autumn and winter....I actually embrace it. If you have read my blog, you know I even traveled to Scotland in October. Winter brings on a sort of peace for me. Thanks for your post....it is so beautifully written.

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    1. That is interesting about winter bringing peace. I have something of that in that there is a sort of relief in not needing to be out in the garden, failing to bring any sort of order to my overgrown couple of acres.

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  10. We badly need some 'hygge' in our unheated stone cottage. Thankfully we're not living there and the weather has been mild but even so there was one day I was shivering audibly with cold and I was so pleased to get home, flick the central heating switch and snuggle in front of our gas fire. Last winter was my first with no responsibilities and I had such a great time discovering Blogland and relearning all sorts of crafts. This winter is going to be very different.

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    1. You can definitely create hygge in your cottage with heat and light Sarah. That will transform the way it feels!

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  11. I love winter. The nature of my year means there is more time for friends, more peace, as well as great evenings by the fire and sometimes even snow. (which I must say I greet with initial excitement followed by hard work, worry and exasperation..)
    In summer I sometimes long for the days when I will sit staring at pouring rain and birds swamping the feeder with my kindle in my hand and no need to fret about the weather....
    But maybe that last bit is New Danish rather than Old Danish. Some of us do love a little solitude as well as our loved ones. (though I'm coming to hate that expression........)
    Xxxxx

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    1. I have just the faintest echo of your feeling about winter in that I always find a sort of relief in getting to the time of the year when I turn inside away from the garden and all its work and come inside and sit by the fire. I too need both the sitting by myself and the sitting with others, although I can succumb to too much time by myself if I don't take care.

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  12. I walked my dog Toff for 2 hours in the drizzle today as Charles Hawes had decided it was too wet to do our planned walk because we would not be able to appreciate the landscape. I can tell you the walk was a revelation - the colours revealing themselves in and out of the mist here in the upper Tawe Valley were just stunning, and the whole experience life affirming. I'm sure Toff enjoyed it too but the conversation was a bit one-sided. What I enjoy most when walking with Charles and others is the conversation and fellowship. I believe it is enhanced by ending a wet winter walk with a nice pint and good food in interesting company. Could that be hygge too ?

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    1. Oh yes, I think that definitely is a form of hygge. It's a great example too of needing the less obviously comfortable bits in order to really enjoy and feel the warmth and ease.

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  13. Sign me up for hygge - especially the cashmere socks and hot chocolate. I am sure that those people who drink hot chocolate by themselves are just practising so that they can be on top hygge form when they are with family and friends.

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    1. That will be my excuse, just practising. I do like a bit of hygge by myself as well as the more sociable form!

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  14. I hope that you have a wonderful hygge winter! It sounds as though you are going to be off to a good start with a fire, candles, hot chocolate and a blanket! Add a good film or a good book and you should be all set! xx

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    1. I have been belting through the good books! I wish I could slow down but once I start a book I whizz through them so all suggestions very gratefully received!

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  15. Your idea sounds wonderful and makes the thought of winter more appealing. I look forward to reading more in the weeks ahead. For me, a bit of winter can be beautiful, peaceful, contemplative and cozy, but after about a month, I'm ready for a new season, especially one without snow! This year I'm planning to escape by mid-January and return the end of March.

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    1. I must admit that even now with my resolution to make winter as good as I can, I am rather intrigued by the idea of escaping just at the time you say. I think I would return at the end of February though so I would be back for my daffodils!

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  16. Elizabeth, I am going to practice properly pronouncing hygge, while remembering how to spell it. I've met Danes visiting over here in New York, and have always enjoyed their company. Perhaps I can adopt their warm way of experiencing winter. (And a visit to Denmark would also be fun!)

    Your fireplace is lovely with that bird at its base. I also like the looks of that knitting. Soup making has already begun here, with more lentil soup, using homemade chicken broth, on tomorrow's schedule, along with more Christmas card painting, and getting together with friends in the evening. A taste of hygge?

    xo

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    1. Sounds as though you are certainly practising hygge there already Frances! I am a big fan of making soup. In fact I will make some tomorrow!

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  17. I really enjoy winter; all those things you mention in your post make me feel very cosy and happy. Wishing you a truly hygge winter! x

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    1. How great that you enjoy winter! I will try to do the same. Warmth and light is the key I think!

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  18. Scandinavian countries really have to embrace winter - there is so much of it and so much colder there too - even the sea freezes, but they are so good at using every opportunity to enjoy outdoor life. I love spending time there each summer and finding out more about these fascinating countries. I rather like the term ' cocooning' too which seems to mean pretty much the same thing. Let's enjoy embracing winter (when it finally arrives - it is unseasonally warm here at the moment)!

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    1. Cocooning, what a lovely word. I shall adopt it.

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  19. Great blog and lovely ideas to make winter more bearable I agree with them all, and hot chocolate and long walks in crisp clean air. Have a great week :)

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    1. How could I have left out long walks? Love walking at any time of year and getting out in winter, as Paul says earlier, is really special.

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  20. I love your blog...the Danes definitely have the right idea. Gathering round a table each evening with candles lit and good food definitely banishes the winter blues. B x

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  21. I like the idea of hygge, warmth,food and friends to help pass through the winter. We have for the last few years had a Winter Solstice party near to the shortest day. I blogged about it here last year: http://ourgarden19.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/winter-solstice.html

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    1. I had been thinking about having a winter party Brian. It hasn't happened this year because of my dad but I do think it's a great idea.

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  22. I love all of this - in fact, I don't really mind cold weather at all, because I so love making the inside warm and cozy. Sadly, our first November in the UK has been amazingly mild - so much so that it feels silly to even consider turning on the gas fire (not nearly as nice as wood, but we're renters, and probably quite lucky to have even that) at all. It's interesting that a properly dark day or night can feel cozy, but it's so much harder to cope with that middle-of-the road greyness and not-really-very-chilly temperatures.

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    1. You are right about middle of the road greyness. We have exactly that here this morning and it's not conducive to hygge!

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  23. I love winter and cosiness and light and so on.
    You are truly right to embrace its various charms - I love the early evenings and crispness and fireplaces.
    Wishing you warmth and lots of delicious food.
    Warm greetings from NY where we have yet to have a frost!

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    1. We had a lovely fire last night but this morning is damp and drear. I need some daytime versions of hygge!

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  24. More hygge is just what we need! We do quite a bit of it already in this house but there's always room for more :-) Sharing times with friends and family in winter is important, so we don't start to feel isolated. Emma at silverpebble has created a virtual hygge - hurrah!

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    1. Virtual hygge, exactly. That's why I wanted to join in.

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  25. You have a wood burner, how lovely, there' s nothing cosier than a wood burner. Hygge is wonderful, I used to be married to a German and their Gemutlichkeit is the same thing. I love the idea at the beginning of winter, a blazing fire and being cosy. After a while though, I want to be outside in shorts and a teeshirt and bare feet, sniffing the roses. Still you are right, we shouldn' t spend half the year waiting for the next half.

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    1. I do know what you mean. I can embrace winter in the early part but by February I am going a bit nuts!

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  26. Hello - Meggie mentioned your blog post when she visited me, and it is lovely. It is a relief when the shorter days come and we can slow down - I know a lot of folks here feel the same. I love candlelight but always feel a bit miserly to light them indiscriminately... But just about to make venison stew, so warm tummies will keep us glowing x

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    1. Venison stew sounds a great example of hygge!

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  27. I've just found your two lovely comments on my post 'A New Chapter' in my just discovered spam folder. Thank you for your wise and comforting words Elizabeth. You are completely right. The problem is I'm doubting whether I am the right person to bring this old cottage back to life and I'm worried that it will need more time than I have available. We are both working (full time and part time) and I fear we may have got the timing completely wrong. I thought it would be a doddle, and maybe if we'd bought somewhere that was up and running and it was just a question of moving in some furniture and putting our feet up it would have been alright, but the scale of the job ahead terrifies me. I badly need to be there when the sun is shining to start feeling positive about it again. Meanwhile our real home is just so cosy and comfortable and easy! Sarah from Homeslip x.

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    1. Wait and see how you feel when the sun shines Sarah!

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  28. I love the Danish concept of hygge, new to me, but works well for our long winters in Maine. I find myself cozying up to the fire, searching for warmth in a world plagued by icy acts of terror. Your post obviously dates from before the terrorist attacks and reminds me of happier times. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I haven't felt like blogging since the Paris attack although I will come back to it. Too huge and terrible for words.

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  29. I love the word, and I definitely live by it. Maybe not so much with other people, but I do appreciate late fall and winter as a time to be quiet and cozy. I even did a blog entry about why I love this time of year!

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    1. I think I do more by myself than is truly Danish too!

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  30. Candles alone can conjure up hygge for me, I shared a student house years ago with a Dane, among others, and she filled our living room with candles in winter. I don't remember ever hearing her use the word hygge, but she certainly knew something about homemaking.

    Apologies that this comment is so late Elizabeth, I've been on a bit of a blog break but I'm back now and trying to catch up with everyone.

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  31. Thanks for sharing a word new to me, Elizabeth. I enjoyed visiting the blog link to learn more. Candlelight, firelight, and muted lamp light all contribute to hygge for me. Thanks for visiting my last post and leaving a comment as well...then I could come here and discover your lovely blog :)

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  32. Several year ago I read that Denmark was to change its 'official language' to English. Whatever happened to that brilliant idea; did the Danes revolt?

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  33. Wishing you and your family joy and peace during this holiday season! Happy Solstice as well :-).

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  34. May you have lots of "cosiness " all through 2016. We're limited in what we can do because we live in a human filing cabinet (alternately known as a condominium, where we're renting space.) NO fireplace here! Sigh.

    Blessings and Bear hugs, Elizabeth.

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