The freezing wind whips tiny ice chunks against your face as you carefully make the perilous journey from your car to the entrance of the house. You stumble inside and as you unravel the layers of winter clothes, warmth envelops you like a blanket and your senses are hit with a variety of smells as you take in the view—vanilla candles, steaming stew on the stovetop, bread in the oven. You’re ushered into a living space with inviting armchairs positioned by a glowing fireplace and someone hands you a warm cup of mulled apple cider. There are smiling eyes and genuine laughter, and a feeling of belonging.
There is a name for all this: hygge (pronounced “hyoo-guh”). It is a Danish word that doesn’t have an exact English translation because more than just a word, it is a way of life. It has to do with embracing a quality of coziness and comfort that results in a state of contentment and well-being. The focus is on enjoying the simple pleasures of life and the people around you. It is a year-round lifestyle, but it is especially felt and enjoyed during the cold winter months.
As a person who moved to Minnesota in adulthood after having lived in much warmer climates, I find these snowy winters to be full of wonder and beauty. People usually expect me to hate this frigid season, but I don’t. The truth is that I’m an introverted homebody and the reason I love winter is not for the skiing or ice-skating. I can’t even make a decent snowball! What I love is the inviting warmth that glows from every window at night, contrasted with the frozen beauty of fresh snow. I love the way everything is forced to slow down. We drive less frantically and we walk more carefully. We linger more and, perhaps, we chose more wisely how to spend our time. Even the weather thwarts our plans from time to time, causing us to stay home. We introverts call that JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) because although it’s terribly sad to cancel plans, we are also secretly happy to have to put on our comfy pants and cozy up with a good book while the wind howls outside.
The more I’ve learned about hygge, I feel like I was made for this kind of lifestyle. Everything in our urban surroundings seems to suggest that we should rush, hurry and hustle. But every single time I do, I find myself regretting the moments I missed and the loved ones I overlooked.
Hygge defines what I’ve always enjoyed about winter, but also about life. It’s not just a trend, and it’s much more than an aesthetic style. It is about being present in the moment and not running through life at such a frenetic pace that all the truly meaningful details pass by in a blur.
And so, I plan on enjoying as many winter views as I can… from the inside of my cozy house. But let’s be real. Before you construct a picture in your head of me in a sherpa pullover reading by a glowing fireplace with violins in the background, add to that mental image: four children.
Winter sustains an enchanting charm that carries kids through about the end of December, when all the cookie-making, the presents and the colorful lights have outlived their purpose. The new year arrives and the kids are bouncing off the walls. Maybe it’s too much sugar from all that winter baking. Maybe it’s cabin fever. Either way, the awe and wonder of the season seems to have been packed away with the decorations. How can we carry that peaceful hygge feeling through the winter season when the kids are full of pent-up energy and they don’t wanna make another snowman? (And neither do I!) Here are some ideas for a winter hygge lifestyle with kids:
Well, first of all, why did you pack away the twinkle lights? Evenings and mornings are dark in the winter and that doesn’t end with December. Keep using warm lights and candles through the whole season–maybe even the greenery and pine cones! Whatever makes your indoors feel cozy is fair game.
The 5 Senses
Besides decor, consider what makes for a peaceful ambiance in your home by thinking of the 5 senses. What scents do you love? What kind of music sounds wintery to you? Surround yourself and your family with all the comforts of winter that invite you to slow down and enjoy the moment: soft blankets, comfy rugs, warm drinks.
Although I personally love a good family movie night, there comes a point when more screen-time isn’t benefiting any of us and it’s time to re-introduce some other ways of spending our time together. Imagine the old days, before the internet and Netflix. What would a family do for fun on a winter evening? Bring out the puzzles, make a craft, play hide-and-seek! When was the last time you did that with your kids? Put the phone away and engage in some simple fun with your little people.
One of the best ways to spend a winter evening is by reading a great book together. It has been proven to be one of the best things you can do as a parent. Reading aloud to kids improves their comprehension, attention span, and vocabulary. It also builds empathy, facilitates important conversations and fosters a love for reading. And most importantly, it strengthens your bond with your kids. It may take a few tries to find the right book for the ages of your kids, but it is definitely worth a try. I recommend the hilarious original Winnie-the-Pooh books or the How To Train Your Dragon series. Add some blanket forts and snacks… how much more hygge can it get?
Summer eating consists of a lot of grilling and snacking, but in winter, meals can be more of a family activity where you can take the time to include kids in the process. They can learn age-appropriate skills like mixing, chopping, and even cooking some easy meals. Imagine the possibilities – with enough practice, your older children could be making pasta, or grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup! My oldest has been making a point to remind me often, “I can do this mom,” as he takes a pizza out of the oven and other “big kid” skills.
When the sky has been gray for days and everyone is missing the warm sun and green grass, make an indoor picnic! Lay out a picnic blanket with lemonade, hot dogs, chips, maybe even a watermelon! The kids love it, and what better way to teach them to literally make lemonade when life gives you lemons?
Another thing my kids absolutely love is scavenger hunts. Over the years, I’ve perfected a few ideas that always get my “bored” kids off the couch. One favorite is the glow stick hunt! What’s better than glow sticks on those early dark evenings? I’ve also sent them around the house hunting for things that start with each letter of the alphabet, things of a certain color, or a specific list of items that I know might be a little hard to find.
The Drive Thru Run
Finally, the last thing we want to do in sub-zero temperatures is take the pack of kids anywhere. But sometimes we all just need some fresh air. My solution for an outing that doesn’t involve all the winter gear is to use one of the brilliant amenities of our age: the drive thru. You can leave your house and yet never step foot on snowy ground! Hit up a coffee drive thru, obviously, but there are now many donut and bagel shops with drive thrus as well. And why not do your banking or drop of the library books while you’re at it? The drive may lull some kids to sleep, while the others get to look out the window for a while. Now if only Chipotle would get a drive thru!
Whether it’s a blizzard or a blue sky wintry day, there are so many ways to enjoy the season with your loved ones. Hygge has given me the inspiration and the determination to slow down and spend my time wisely, making our home a place where our family and friends can find joy and feel known.
What are your best ideas for embracing hygge?