Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

O Shopper Columns


I'm one of those rare people who love winter. Cold weather doesn't bother me. You can always put on more clothes, but in the heat, there's only so much you can take off in public without risking arrest. I feel most alive when there's a nip in the air. As for snow, bring it on! I spent a decade living in the Rocky Mountain West, where flakes can fall as early as Labor Day and stay on the ground until April.

Many of my friends think I'm nuts. In December, some might dream of a White Christmas, but by January 2, they're ready for spring. Don't they realize that they're only one week into winter at that point? I suppose I share humorist Garrison Keller's philosophy regarding the season: "Winter is nature's way of letting you know the world doesn't revolve around you."

What I've always loved most is how winter's chill makes one's home feel cozier by contrast. I love working at my desk on an overcast January day, looking outside and seeing snow on the ground. I enjoy sitting by a fire with a cup of coffee and a book. I love arriving at a friend's house on a frosty night, removing my coat and scarf, and drinking in the cheery warmth of their home.

Until a few years ago, I never knew how to articulate my feelings for this time of year. But then I stumbled across a Danish word: hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). The word has no English equivalent. "Coziness of the soul," "cozy togetherness," or "taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things" come close to conveying its meaning.

"Winter is nature's way of letting you know
the world doesn't revolve around you."

 Hygge is central to the cultures of Denmark and Norway. These countries have long, cold, cloudy winters, with only six to eight hours of sunlight per day. One might assume that seasonal depression was a national plague. Surprisingly, Denmark and Norway rate as the two happiest nations on earth- and their secret is their love of hygge.

Americans might put electric candles in windows for Christmas, but the Danes and Norwegians burn the real things in their homes throughout the winter. Hot drinks- alcoholic and not- are their equivalent of our cold beers. They find pleasure in donning warm sweaters and wool socks. Gathering around a dinner table and then by the fire with four or five close friends- to talk, laugh or play games- is considered the apex of the good life.

Danish writer Meik Wiking recalls one frigid winter night spent with friends after a day of hiking. Pleasantly drowsy, wrapped in big sweaters, and sipping mulled wine, they sat by the fireplace while a stew bubbled in the kitchen.

"Could this be any more hygge?" Meik asked.

"Yes," one woman said after a moment. "If there was a storm raging outside."

Everyone agreed.

Instead of wasting the winter wishing for summer, maybe we'd all enjoy the season more if we put a little hygge in it.

Rob Lauer is an award-winning, nationally-produced and published playwright with over 35 years of experience in the entertainment industry. His national credits include production work for MGA Films, Time/Warner TV, The Learning Channel and The History Channel. Locally, Rob has been producing, directing and hosting three TV series for PCTV (the City of Portsmouth’s official channel) since 2011.