Home Warming – Or – Hygga For Beginners

 

Home warming has taken on an urgency for me of late.  As I’ve said before, I am no fan of winter.  I don’t like wind and snow.  I don’t like cold body parts.  I don’t like the 14+ hours of darkness and having to wear a dozen layers of clothing just to walk to the mailbox.  I’m a total summertime, heat-loving southern girl and about this time of the year, I can feel the dread building.  I wouldn’t call it depression necessarily, but a “funk” is quite apropos, I think.  I become sluggish, perhaps a little withdrawn and melancholy.  So the last year or two, I’ve put extra effort into creating an environment to lift the funk and enjoy the season; the Scandinavians would call it hygga, our grandmas would call it home warming.   Both people groups would call it creating an atmosphere of welcome and coziness, of little luxuries and creature comforts, of warmth, kinship and familiarity.

In times before central heating, electric lights and 24/7 communication, home warming/hygga was necessary for survival, both physical and mental.  We needed the season of rest, the tactile warmth, the small comforts and the togetherness to survive and thrive during those long winter months.  Unfortunately, our culture has rejected the psychological benefits of slowing down and gathering in…and it shows, my friends.  Up to 20 percent of Americans suffer from some form of SAD (winter blues) marked by decreased energy, lack of concentration, lack of interest in friends, family or activities.  Many turn to light therapy to treat SAD, and I think that’s great, but there’s still the psychological angle that we’re missing.   That coziness of home and family creates a sense of well-being that we still desperately need, maybe now more than ever!

So what are the steps we can take to begin home warming and make the coming cold, dark season one of blessings instead of burdens?

Home warming at its best!

  • Light a fire.  There is simply nothing that creates coziness in a room and draws people together like a crackling fireplace.  A natural wood fire is obviously the best choice, but even a gas or electric fireplace can create a similar effect.  Pull a chair close, add a thick throw and a warm mug of tea and that’s absolute bliss right there.
  • Use candles, flameless candles or lanterns.  Overhead, task lighting has it’s purposes, but there’s nothing like those little pools of warm, flickering light!  Coupled with warm fragrances, candlelight creates a literal “light in a dark place” that we are instinctively drawn to.  Think of Christmastime when there are no lights on in the room except for the lights on the tree.  That’s hygga at it’s best.
  • Add scents.  Nothing fake and perfume-y, thank you very much, but perhaps simmering spices in the steamer pot on the woodstove, boughs of pine or rosemary to toss into the fire, honey-scented beeswax candles.  Fragrance is a powerful connector that shouldn’t be overlooked!
  • Incorporate texture.  This one is huge for me!  Think of those traditional, cozy fibers and fabrics and incorporate them into every aspect of your life.  Warm angora sweaters, comfortable fleece-lined hoodies and leggings, thick wool slippers, downy comforters, flannel sheets, faux fur, thick knit throws, Sherpa coats, felted wool mittens.   Even on a modest budget, with some savvy shopping, you can incorporate plush textures, comfortable fabrics and warm fibers into every room and closet.
  • Bring the outdoors in.  Decorate with pinecones, evergreen boughs, chipwood baskets full of kindling for the fire, dried flowers and leaves in a wreath, a small stack of logs by the fireplace.  All these elements will help you feel connected with the outdoors even when it’s too cold to go outside.
  • Mindful indulgence.  This is a tough one for most Americans.  Our pendulum tends to swing from one extreme to another; from absolute deprivation to complete abandonment.  I think home warming/hygga during the cold and dark of winter calls for measures of indulgence that warm both body and soul, but those measures should be balanced with thoughtfulness and self-control.  Think small portions of excellent quality chocolate (no Hershey bars allowed!). REAL hot cocoa topped with whipped cream and a sprinkling of red pepper.  Buttered tea sweetened with a teaspoon of honey.  Freshly popped kettle popcorn.  Mulled cider or wine.  A slice of warm pie.  A cookie fresh from the oven.  Savor the experience!
  • Enjoy simple, wholesome food.   Close on the heels of mindful indulgence is the need for basic, warm food.  Nothing warms body and soul during wintertime like a pot of bubbling stew, a warm loaf of bread,  a roasted chicken with root veggies or a hearty, cheesy casserole.  Keep it simple, my friends!  We don’t need complicated recipes and elaborate presentations to make a meal that nourishes our family and friends!
  • Relax with favorite activities.  Put down your hand-helds, America, and pull out a board game, a puzzle, a favorite book, cuddle under a blanket, watch a family movie or do a craft.  It’s no waste of time to slow your body, settle your mind and de-stress.  While we can’t hibernate (Oh I wish!), we can set time aside to rest and enjoy ourselves.
  • Spend quality time with family and friends.  I’m not talking about throwing elaborate dinner parties; just gather around the fire, enjoy a meal together, tell stories, play games.  Be with people that make you feel content, loved and connected.
  • Go outside.  Ugh.  I don’t like this one smidgen, but it IS beneficial to bundle up and get some fresh air.  (At least that’s what I tell the kids after we’ve been snowed in together for 5 days and I’m about to come totally unhinged.) Take a walk, play in the snow, ride your bike or just take a car ride to see the scenery.  Nothing will make you appreciate a warm hearth, cozy slippers and a steaming mug of cocoa like freezing your fanny off outside. 

I don’t know what the Old Farmer’s have predicted for this year, but I’ve already begun the process of home warming for winter.

The heavy blankets are coming out of storage to be aired, yarn is being knitted or crocheted into hats and scarves, firewood is being stacked and the pantry stocked with small indulgences like quality teas, chocolates and coffees.   While I can’t control the arrival of the season, the length of the day or the bracing temperatures, I can control my response.  When the {{{brr shiver shiver}}} arrives, I plan to greet it like an old friend and enjoy it’s company for a short season and I hope you will too.  Til next time–