Hygge…& Celebrating Winter’s Gifts

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Aronia arbutifolia “Brilliantissima’ with the first snowfall

Last week’s arctic blast brought temperatures in the single digits and truly announced that winter had arrived. Ready or not, garden chores were a wrap and the time had come for most of us to give ourselves permission to chill…indoors! 

We gardeners are naturally inclined to follow the rhythm of the seasons, and the shorter days of winter are a check for us to slow down and restore our energies. You, like I, may resist going into full hibernation mode, but why not take cues from Scandinavian folks, who endure even shorter days than we do. For example, the Danes practice hygge (pronounced hoo-guh) as part of daily life. Hygge can’t be translated into English with a single word, but imagine feelings or activities that promote coziness enhanced by candles or firelight….think warm socks and woolen sweaters, friendly gatherings before a roaring fire, warm beverages in your hands, looking dreamily at snowy scenes through frosted window panes, and late afternoon nature walks to catch the last rays of light.

The words of many secular Christmas carols promote feelings of hygge. There is no need to stop at the Yuletide’s end; we should make it our practice to continue hygge through the long winter. Take back the darkness by continuing to light candles or drape strands of white lights, then sit in your most comfy chair under a coverlet and lose oneself in a good book or listen to music, or finish knitting that scarf you started last year. All too soon spring will arrive, and the garden will beckon.

What interpretations of  hygge do you practice in winter? Would you like to share?

11 thoughts on “Hygge…& Celebrating Winter’s Gifts”

  1. Your cover photo is beautiful! It looks like a Christmas card.

    After just finishing up the gardening season last week, I am more than ready to practice hygge. For me that means reading a good book in my favorite chair under my faux fur blanket. This position is next to a window where I have a bird feeder. I often stop reading to just watch the birds. Light is important to me, so I have faux and real scented candles as well as my new LIFX light bulbs that are controlled through wi-fi. I can set these lights to different colors to match my moods. Heaven. January is a time for me to recharge to allow for the creative juices to flow.

  2. Thank you for this lovely reminder of the joy of seasons. Only two more days until the daylight hours lengthen.

  3. Wonderful article, thanks. On my end what is also a part of Hygge or the Gemutlichkeit that my Austrian relatives practice yearround but especially in winter is extra snuggle time with pets and more
    chocolate! I am grateful for winter and how it allows us to recharge on all levels as we slow down and savor what we have. Such a good and essential switch from the manic springs and summers those of us who live in the cold tier (me in the high tier in Colorado) experience. I especially enjoy the sensual treats of warm fires and woolens, taking more time to cook and eat, and having a good dark stout or porter and hot chocolate every day. Happy Hygge!

  4. Thank you Carol…this wasn’t the shot I was looking for on Saturday morning, but it was the one I found. And I need to remember to suggest Aronia ‘Brilliantissima’ to my clients when they ask for winterberry. The fruit seems to last so much longer, but maybe its because the birds aren’t as fond of it.

  5. I just got introduced to this concept of Hygge at Thanksgiving and am loving it! The holiday lights, fire in the woodstove, the pile of knitting and listening to books on CD in bed, are feeling so sweet this year! I’m not headed to FL to spend the holiday with my mother and though committed to her health and emotional care, a part of me is kicking and screaming to disrupt this cozy time :). I know it will be here waiting for me when I return in a week :). Be well all!

  6. Hi Kathy, I just learned of your blog through Better Homes and Gardens, though I’ve visited your nursery several times (favorite purchase from you is my Golden Shadows pagoda dogwood!).
    But, today’s question is regarding winterberries, which you mention are so popular with birds that you recommend your clients try Adonis instead. My ilex verticillata Winter Red had tons of berries which were gone within weeks, before Christmas. I’m puzzled because the bushes at the Arnold Arboretum, just 2 miles away, are still covered even now, in early March. I’m trying to figure out if I should move mine to where squirrels have less access or get rid of them entirely. Do you have any insights?

  7. Is suspect that your Ilex verticillata’s berries became food for the birds. Why the Arboretum’s Ilex has not been devastated, I can’t say. The Aronia’s fruit doesn’t seem to be as appetizing..there are still fruit (now a bit dried on my specimen. But know this: The Aronia can get quite large 12-15’…and I have pruned mine to be a small tree…in fact, I have grown in a large pot outdoors for 5 years and it hasn’t seemed to mind a bit. So , I am unsure whether you would want to make this substitution in the same place. Perhaps try an Aronia where its size will work for you.

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