Right now, at the threshold of the long dark days of winter, we still have enough summer sunshine in our bones to savor the idea of a long, cold, dark winter, shut in our houses, with happy snowdrifts and icicles outside and lots of warm rosy light and hot cocoa inside. The holidays are ahead of us, and our boots and sweaters feel so, so good after so many months of shorts and t-shirts.
The Danish have a word that every source I’ve read has assured me I simply cannot understand because I’m not Danish myself: hygge. Hygge incorporates the happy feeling of being with the people one loves; the conversation, the light, the laughter. It also incorporates good food and a cozy environment. It sounds to me as if it captures this late-Autumn, early-Winter feeling precisely.
Every so often, when I can see it, I like to watch the movie version of Roald Dahl’s The Witches. It is, by a landslide, my favorite of all his books, and the movie version of it thankfully doesn’t disappoint. It is puckish and gruesome and charming in just the right amounts, and the beginning parts set in Norway are oh! so charming and full of hygge. The pointed houses, the long braids of hair, and need I mention the Scandinavian knits? Sweaters and stocking-caps and mittens, all covered with white motifs against blue and red and green and black backgrounds. Arrrrr, good thoughts indeed. If you’re looking for a movie to give you that cozy winter feeling, I suggest that you check it out.
Once on a message board I read a post by a person who had spent his childhood in Norway. The thread was about memories of school and childhood. He said that every morning for breakfast, his mother gave him a big bowl of oat porridge, with a handful of raisins in it. It was surrounded by a moat of whole milk and capped by a pat of golden, melting butter.
After breakfast, he and the other children would ski to school. It was so cold outside that in addition to their delightful Scandinavian knits, they all had to wear down snowsuits. They were perfectly comfortable as they skied in the morning darkness, but as soon as they got into the warm cloakroom of the schoolhouse, it was a scramble to get the snowsuits off as soon as possible.
After skiing back home from school in the afternoon, he would spend the evening doing his schoolwork, sitting right in front of the fireplace with the two or three big family dogs snoozing around him. He and the dogs and the fire all kept each other warm, and his dripping boots drying by the fire gave a very comfortable sensation of how toasty and nice it was inside, compared to the frozen wilderness outside.
I think there’s plenty of fodder for some Scandinavian daydreaming in that. Truth be told, it’s one of the most charming things I’ve ever read.