Hygellig (or, ‘How to Coze when Winter is Coming’)

24 Apr

I’d like to introduce you to my favourite word. Some Danish friends of mine taught it to me one night when our families were sharing a dinner at their beautiful, tiny mountain cottage in isolated Megan, NSW. To understand the word you have to understand the night: the scrubbed wooden floors, the piping hot casserole dish full of hearty beef goulash, the potbelly fire lighting the room softly and keeping us all snug against the cold wind outside, a few empty bottles of red wine, a discarded game of Pictionary, handmade quilts around our shoulders and good chats that dissolved often into fits of laughter. Hygellig doesn’t have a direct translation in English, but that night got it pretty right.

Everyone has their own kind of hygellig. Maybe it is having a hot bath after a cold walk, with a book and some candles. Maybe it is sitting next to a fire on a pile of colourful cushions with your scruffy and lovable dog. Maybe it is sharing a hammock, a margarita and a cool breeze with a loved one on a hot day.  Whatever it is, it’s cozy and comfortable, but it’s more than that: there’s love and friendship, good times, lightheartedness and a sense of all being right with the world. (And an absence of neon lighting).

With every day getting a little bit colder and every night starting a little bit earlier, winter is looming and it’s easy to feel sad about losing the sunshine. But one of the great things about hygellig is that its natural habitat is winter – to perk up and enjoy the changing of the seasons, you just need to seek out some serious cozing.

1. Appreciate the falling leaves. I live in Canberra, where autumn is the city’s ‘premier season’ (whatever that means) and it’s hard to go outside without being hit in the face by pieces of colourful falling tree, so I realise it’s easy for me to suggest this—but it really is one of the best ways to get excited about the cold weather. Take some photos. Or throw some leaves at someone. Enjoy the crunch.

2. Listen to Emma Louise’s new album – OK I know this is a much more prescriptive suggestion, but seriously, if you haven’t wandered around in the first cold winds of the season with your hands in your pockets and this album playing into your ears, you are missing out on some serious cozing time. One review I read called it ‘music to look out windows to’. Gorgeous gorgeousity.

3. Find a fireplace. They warm the soul, not just your fingers. If no one minds, poke it with a stick.

4. …Preferably a fireplace in an old pub. My suggestion is The Phoenix, but any genuine Irish (or just grotty) pub full of old men, mismatched chairs, dark nooks and darker beer will do you well. Take your oldest friends. Settle in for a while. Consider making friends with someone you don’t know, or playing a game of chess with the Korean guy who’s always there.

5. Knit. Don’t tell me you can’t because it will make you look like a hipster. Knitting has been a source of comfort and creativity for men and women for thousands of years. There is something truly wonderful about being inside when it’s cold and threading wool through your fingers. It occupies your fingers and eyes, so it’s the perfect activity to do while talking to friends. If you’ve had a stressful day, it’s also a great way of meditating and wiping your mind of everything but the repetitive stitches you’re working on. I could keep going about the benefits of knitting but I’d have to devote an entire post to it. If you don’t know how, youtube is ready and waiting to help.

6. Read aloud. Chances are, the last time anyone read you a story was when your age was still in single digits. It’s something beautiful that adults often miss out on – it’s a way of sharing a story with someone without watching TV or going to the movies, and listening to someone interpret words on a page for you will give you a deep new insight into who they are. Plus it’s super nice being read to. Try reading a book with someone you live with, or a family member who won’t think you’ve lost your mind. And don’t forget to lounge around somewhere comfy while you do it.

In a way, this is just a list of my Favourite Things in winter. But I hope hygellig helps you beat the ‘winter is coming’ blues.


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