The Northwoods Tenets of Hygge

How’s your winter going so far? Super full of hygge yet? No? Don’t worry, we can help. 

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If you’re not sure what hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) is, I think Deb Perelman said it best, when she called hygge, “Danish coziness that’s having a moment.”  (For the record, we wrote about hygge here first in early 2016 in a curiously “on point” blog post.)

These days, it seems you can’t log into social media without running into a hygge reference or article. Entire books are being published on the concept of celebrating the coziness that can only be found in the dark winter months and here in northeastern Minnesota, we’ve taken hygge to such extremes that we even have a festival centered around hygge next month. 

With all the hygge buzz, I’ve been hesitant to revisit the subject – I mean, what could I possibly add to the now near feverish hype? But when I read the New York Times‘ list of “5 Cheap(ish) Things to Help You Have a Very Hygge Winter” last month, I realized I might have a slight corner of hygge as a born and bred northern Minnesotan.  Not to pick bones with the New York Times but the list left me . .  . cold, and not just because the article promised a list of five things yet only managed to deliver four. Tsk-tsk. (Case in point about my disconnect with the article: believe it or not, this spring will mark the completion of my 33rd winter spent in what can only be described as hygge bliss despite the fact that I do not – and perhaps never will – own a dog bed.) 

So I got thinking . . . If I were to recommend five cheap(ish) things for “a very hygge winter” what would they be?

1. Outdoor Adventure

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The purpose of hygge is to embrace winter and you can’t very well do that if you’re just gazing at it through a picture window with your fingers wrapped around a hot mug of cocoa. No, to truly hygge, you’ve got to get out in the swirling snow and subzero temperatures for a brisk hike, snowshoe, or ski, or maybe even some ice fishing on the next lake over. You could make a snowman, go sledding, or make snow angels. It really doesn’t matter what you do outside as long as it gets the heart rate up and brings out the color in your cheeks. For me, the most hygge moments are when the sun’s setting on a winter’s day when you’re settling back into the house after several hours outside. Inside is especially cozy when you know just how biting the wind is.

Also, on the cheap(ish) scale, it doesn’t get much cheaper than free fresh air. 

2. Crockpot 

I’m not saying the NYT article was a complete hot mess. I do agree with author Michelle Dozois’s recommendation of a dutch oven for your hygge-y purposes, but like the true Midwesterner I am, I take that dutch oven and I raise you a crockpot. After you’ve completed step one of my hygge recommendations, you’re probably famished and the thought of someone asking “what’s for supper” is just plain exhausting (and annoying). That’s why it’s best to have dinner already bubbling away in the crockpot when you return home. Whatever you make in the crockpot, it get extra hygge points if it pairs well with noodles or mashed potatoes. (And I bet it will.) 

3. Fake pants 

One of the great joys of returning home from winter adventure and stripping off your multiple layers of outerwear is the excuse to spend the rest of your waking hours wearing leggings, pajama pants, or otherwise “fake” pants. 

Not sure if you’re wearing fake pants? Look at your waist. If your pants are held up by anything other than elastic or a drawstring, you’re not wearing fake pants. Head back to your closet and try again. Now, doesn’t that feel better? 

4. A really good book 

If you get home from your outdoor adventure right around sunset, you’ll probably have a little time before supper’s ready. (For me, hygge primetime is approximately 4:30 – 5:15 p.m.) That’s when it’s time to settle in with a blanket, beverage of choice, and a book. If you want some wilderness-inspired reads, you can check our “Best of Camp Reads,” but I should say that for ideal hygge conditions, the book should be one that compels you to read more, more, more. Let go of those notions about what you “ought” to be reading (that list of 101 must-read classics can wait) and focus on finding a real page-turner. 

5. A nice smelling home 

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If you’re successful with step two of these hygge tips, your crockpot might already be filling your home with a delicious aroma. (Huzzah!) With the world frozen solid, we can forget how unstimulated our sense of smell is during winter. For that reason, a nice smelling house in wintertime seems especially cozy. It not hard to achieve: mull some wine, burn a scented candle, diffuse some essential oils, bake bread or cookies, or just simmer a pot of water on the stove with a sprig of rosemary and a couple slices of lemon in it for a 1/2 hour or so. (This last suggest also pumps some often much needed humidity in your home.)  

What are your tenets of hygge? 

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3 Responses to The Northwoods Tenets of Hygge

  1. m mcgowan says:

    This is perfect! Although I never really thought about my tenets of hygge before – maybe because I’m super not Scandinavian? – you are so right on. It’s amusing, but it’s also accurate 🙂

    • Ada says:

      Don’t worry, I’m super not Scandinavian either. (100% British Isles heritage here.) I won’t tell if you don’t.

      • Mary Natwick says:

        Aaand… I’m super Scandinavian (100% Norwegian, third generation—all 8 of my great-grandparents came from Norway). But I’m living in Southern California. Kinda hard to hygge when it’s hot with a helping of wildfire ash in the air. Loved your article—all I can do is enjoy it vicariously. Keep posting!

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