The gifts are unwrapped, the Christmas tree is taken down, and the warm fuzzy feelings that we had over the holidays have all but evaporated into the cold Manitoba winter. We’re left with the depressing realization that there are at least several more months of winter to endure, before we’re rewarded for our perseverance with a cherished Manitoba summer. But fear not, there is hope for us, and it comes in the form of “Hygge”, a concept created and embraced by our Scandinavian neighbors, the Danish.

The “Hygge” phenomenon is invading North America and providing a beacon of hope for those suffering from winter blues. What is Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga), you ask? Visit Denmark explains that while it roughly translates to “coziness”, “In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.” Translator, Tovel Maren Stakkestad, insists, “Hygge was never meant to be translated. It was meant to be felt.” Maybe the Danes are onto something, because like Iceland, Denmark is considered to be one of the happiest countries in the world.

Enjoy the winter

Hygge suggests that instead of simply enduring winter that we actually try to enjoy it. Below is a list of Hygge suggestions that will appeal to all Manitobans, and keep you warm and happy over the winter months.

Stay Warm, Stay Cozy

Hygge is all about warmth and comfort. Cuddle up with knit blankets, plush throws or an iconic wool Hudson’s Bay Company blanket. Make a fire and enjoy the sound of crackling wood, or if you’re without a fireplace download the virtual Shaw Fire Log. Dim the lights and light a candle, opting for warm, rich, earthy smells like vanilla, tobacco, oudwood, sandalwood or patchouli. If you’re brave enough to venture outside don’t forget to bundle up in soft knits, faux fur hats, Manitobah Mukluks or a Lopapeysa (Icelandic sweater)

Sweet Treats, Hot Meals and Drinks

Savour winter with rich soups, hearty vegetables, and freshly baked bread. Fry up some perogies from a neighborhood Baba or fresh Lake Winnipeg Pickerel from a Gimli fisherman. Enjoy coffee, tea, hot chocolate or a warm drink at a local coffee house. Don’t skimp on the sweets, treat your cold self to an infamous cinnamon bun from Tall Grass Prairie bakery, or made fresh daily donuts from Bronuts.

Relax, Linger, Create

Draw yourself a bath and listen to laid back music, maybe from a Manitoba artist like Begonia or The Bros. Landreth. Elevate your bath experience by adding essential oils or Epsom salts to soften dry skin and relieve achy muscles. Watch a movie, or in true Scandinavian style, forgo the screens and curl up with a good book. Take advantage of winter solitude and spend time doing things that soothe your soul. Try writing (like me), painting, photography or creating something new. Move slowly, don’t rush, and linger on the things that make your heart happy.

Visit, Enjoy Good Company

Don’t be a recluse, get out and visit friends or invite them over for glass of wine and delicious Bothwell cheese. Plan family dinners and stop in to visit elderly family members, friends or neighbors that may be housebound in the winter months. Reconnect with old friends and let stories and memories warm you from the inside out.

Redecorate, Organize, Clean

Scandinavian design is about clean, calm, bright spaces with signature pieces and natural elements. Redecorate your space and bring the outside in with branches, faux fur rugs, antlers and interesting plants. And just because it’s winter it doesn’t mean you can’t have flowers. Head to a local florist and purchase a beautiful bouquet that reminds you of spring. Clear your mind and your clutter and take the time to organize your closet, drawers or storage room. Wash your hardwoods till they gleam, clean the top of your fridge, and polish your home till it shines. Open the blinds, the curtains and the drapes, let as much sunlight in as possible.

Get Outside!

When you’ve exhausted all of your indoor options, get outside in pursuit of Hygge. Go snowshoeing or cross country skiing in Hecla or head out on Lake Winnipeg to snowmobile or ice fish. Tour the tundra in Churchill in search of polar bears, or skip the flight and visit them at the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s Journey to Churchill exhibit. Take part in Winnipeg winter activities like five star dining on the ice at RAW:almond, skating on the Assiniboine River trail at The Forks, or the Festival Du Voyageur. Play hockey in true Canadian style at one of Manitoba’s many dozen outdoor rinks. Stay up late, drive out past the streetlights into rural Manitoba and enjoy the dazzling displays of the northern lights.

So, instead of focusing on the cold, snowy weather, remember that the days are getting longer, the sun is shining brighter, and before we know it warmer temperatures will be here. In the meantime get your Hygge on and enjoy all of the beauty that a Manitoba winter has to offer.