Legend has it, there exists in this world a curious type of person who proclaims winter to be their favourite season. I’ve never encountered such a person and doubt that we’d share more than passing pleasantries if we did meet. Certainly, we could never hold down a genuine friendship, on account of how I tend to leave the country once the north wind begins to blow and the agonising countdown to Christmas commences. We could be pen pals, at most.
I blame my parents for my barefoot ways and my insatiable need for vitamin D. My Australian father is a legitimate sufferer of S.A.D. and a genuine candidate for light therapy. My mother was a Sagittarian sun-chaser who believed that if she did not travel physically then her mind would travel – in other words, she would go completely and irrevocably mad. Neither parent demonstrated much tolerance for the winter months. My father would frequently pepper conversations with the following fun fact: “The weeks between your mother’s birthday on 24th November and my birthday on 17th January are the darkest six weeks of the year”. Their solution to winter was to escape it, whenever possible. I never stood a chance, did I?
I accept that I am a fairweather Brit, that I love my country but only when its skies are smiling at me. I can take the abuse thrown at me by friends when I mention a flight booked, or a foreign adventure fantasised. I am a lizard who soaks up the sun, a seasonal escape artist who misses the X-Factor final because I’m usually ankle deep in sand. It’s simply who I am, and it has never concerned me. Until now.
Now, life has taken a different shape. No longer the drifter, I am now the nine-to-five-er, the post-work-grocery-shopper. I made a choice to be here, beside my man while he carves out a beautiful creative existence and puts his stamp on the thespian world. Currently, he is the artist, the drifter, the dreamer, the freelancer, and I’m OK with that for a while But here’s the crux of the matter: I am not in the least bit mentally or physically equipped to endure the impending winter. I can’t change my latitude this year, so I need a plan. Pronto.
I’ve often entertained the idea of becoming one of those “man up and knuckle down” types, but could never grasp the key ingredients of turning that concept into reality. However two events occurred, not so long ago, which confirmed that it’s time I try: I purchased my first onesie and subsequently declined an invitation to a fun social engagement in order to stay home and suffocate in the hot, fleecy heaven of said onesie. I literally hid, and felt guilty for being a social let-down. It was Saturday night, people, Saturday night. But with perfect cosmic timing, a game-changing article came to my attention, outlining the practice of hygge; the Danish notion of cramming as much guilt-free, feel-good, fun-loving, family-centred, book-reading, duvet-swaddling, dog-walking, pastry-indulging, cinnamon-scented cosiness into life as is humanly possible. I don’t believe I need guidance on how to enjoy life in general, but as I believe we have established I could do with a few pointers between the dark months of October and February, and finally I discovered something of great impact.
These clever, inspiring Danes allow themselves – without apology – to indulge in whatever makes them feel positive. They don’t deny themselves experiences which will increase their happiness, nor do they force upon themselves experiences which will induce stress. Hygge has no literal translation in English, but my understanding of the sentiment goes something like this: however simple, if it feels/smells/tastes/sounds/appears lovely in any way to you personally, seize that little bit of magic and glide with it all the way to Spring. If lighting a few candles makes you feel snug and peaceful, knock yourself out. If your idea of rock and roll is cooking quesadillas in your slippers for a bunch of friends who are also wearing their slippers, then rock on.
I’m now officially obsessed with hygge. Each day I evaluate activities, emotions, invitations, ideas, items and sensory experiences by how hygge they are. If they’re not hitting at least an 8/10, forget about it. My wardrobe door even displays a list I’ve compiled – mostly red wine and open fires – as a daily reminder of Nice Things About Winter. And, quite crucially, I’m curbing the guilt feelings of my inner social butterfly – the one who hates cancelling plans – because if I don’t nourish myself during this testing period, my loved ones won’t want to spend time looking at my miserable face anyway. I’m fairly certain that somewhere over the waters, there was a Danish version of me wearing a similarly ridiculous onesie on that very same Saturday night, ignoring calls from her trendy, vodka-sipping friends, and she didn’t feel a shred of guilt for having taken the quiet, cosy option. She is now my heroine.
So I may not love rain, or illness, or frozen windscreens, or dressing in layers, and I may never give up dreaming of warmer climes, but I do love the concept of hygge with all it can teach me – and by conjuring all the cosy optimism I possess, I will make it out the other side.