How do you get cozy in warm, southern winters? Catherine Pond explains the art of practicing “hygge.”
As I write this while thinking of the big snow and wood-stoved winters of our former New England lives—the ultimate in winter hygge—a large swath of the Deep South has been blanketed by its most significant snowfall in years. While you don’t have to have snow to experience the winter lifestyle, it certainly helps everyone to be a bit cozier and more contained indoors.
Embracing Hygge in the South
So, what the heck is “hygge?” Pronounced "hue-gah," this is a Danish word for cozy, comfortable warmth and everything one can do to attain it. Think of wood fires, thick warm mittens, big mugs of cocoa—comforting blankets and sweaters or socks, and stew simmering on the stove.
When Julie Andrews, as Maria VonTrapp in The Sound of Music, was flipping out about her “Favorite Things,” she was basically talking about hygge, albeit in Austria. To refresh your memory (and perhaps you, too, danced around your living room in the 1960s to the joys of this Rodgers & Hammerstein soundtrack) she sung of “bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens,” “crisp apple strudels and schnitzel with noodles” (basically apple pie and the American equivalent of a casserole), and “doorbells and sleigh bells” which evoke visiting friends and winter frolicking with “snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes.”
The concept of “hygge” is so comforting that it would make you dance around, too, if you really embrace and think about it. After all, what’s not to love about anything cozy? Everyone likes to be comfortable and well-fed while feeling as if life’s basic offerings are all we need.
Ways to Practice Comfort At Home
Here are some easy ways you can embrace the “hygge” lifestyle, particularly during winter in the country or on a dreary rainy day—you are likely already living hygge without even realizing it:
- Make cocoa or have afternoon tea
- Prepare a nice meal and eat it around the fireplace (if you don’t have one, my solution is a fake Duraflame "woodstove" in my kitchen from QVC)
- Bake cookies with your children, grandchildren, or friends
- Turn your thermostat down and wear layers of turtlenecks and sweaters (and save on your heating bill!)
- Keep your bedroom cool and pile on the quilts (it’s healthier, too)
- Make homemade soup and simmer it on a woodstove (or the kitchen stove will do)
- Wear felted wool clogs all the time with comfy socks—especially in the house
- Learn to knit or resume this restful, meditative craft (after a long hiatus, I intend to)
- Opt for earlier bedtimes with a pile of good books to read while nestled under the covers
- Split and chop wood for that fireplace (Back on our New England farm, we had annual “Wood Weekends”—we’d split and stack 15 cords of dry seasoned firewood and put it in the barn annex each October. Friends would arrive from Boston and nearby and we made a great time of it, had a hayride, and my mother and I cooked up plenty of good food. Looking back on these fond memories of gathering together with good purpose, I realize it was an über-hygge experience.)
- Make the ultimate cozy lunch: tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches on thick homemade bread, and brownies
- Put winter-designed 100% cotton flannel sheets on all of your beds and don’t forget the flannel PJs, too
- Wear big cozy sweaters everywhere, wrapped up in a favorite woolen scarf
- Craft simple decorations out of found objects in nature: cedar boughs, various kinds of holly, mistletoe, and other greens available throughout the South or at garden centers
- Light candles in the rooms where you are gathered
In our hectic and complicated world, what more do we need than warmth, good food, and friends and family all around us? And, if we’re lucky, maybe some surrounding country acreage, too.