I know you; you’re sitting in front of your computer, wrapping misery in a blanket, and you’ve opened this article to scoff at my list of ideas to keep your heart warm through another Canadian winter. You don’t like that snow has seized our streets, patios have shut their doors, and Mr. Frost has personally ensured that you will not be at a restful temperature while outdoors for the next three months. So you might as well read this and enlighten your winter more than your wistful waiting ever could.
I’m sitting at a coffee shop—outside the window to my left, the snow falls modestly—in the foreground is my computer, where I scroll through a number of documents to edit or schedule, and to my right is a cup of coffee, lightened with cream and a bit of raw sugar. Many of the other customers in the shop have the same idea; they have their computers or books, and their cups of coffee, while others are engaged in casual conversation, maybe gossip or whatever the duration of the cup gives them. Anyway, I’m content. The warmth of the setting I describe here is the warmth that I’d like to share with those who may not find winter as delightful as I do. I’ve done some research, and many of the countries and cultures around the world, that experience similar or harsher winters than Toronto, have it figured out. Some live in parts of the world that perpetually experience the cold, snow, ice, wind, and darkness. But like people do, these places have found ways to keep cheerful, despite winter’s relentlessness.
Denmark’s winter state of mind, hygge, pronounced “hyoo-gah,” is expressed by warm sweaters, sitting by the fire, family get-togethers, or drinking tea or coffee under a blanket. Living in Canada, we are very familiar with this feeling and these activities; it won’t be a surprise to most that hygge is usually translated as “cosiness” in English. According to the BBC article “Hygge: A heart-warming lesson from Denmark,” “the idea is to relax and feel as at-home as possible, forgetting life’s worries.” I trust this state-of-mind, considering it comes out of a culture that experiences up to 17 hours of darkness during the winter but still remain one of the world’s happiest countries.
Sweden.se claims that “Swedes prefer not to translate the word fika. They don’t want it to lose significance and become a mere coffee break.” Comparable to hygge, fika is oriented on spending quality time with loved-ones, socializing in warm environments, and enjoying the small and careful pleasure of having a cup of coffee with accompanying sweets. In my opinion, this is a fine way to spend your weekend, without needing to define or translate what you are doing.
Inuit culture has managed a long history of a cold climate and long periods of darkness through a strong sense of community and oral storytelling. Reading a book aloud or absorbing the value of a story through any medium can be enlightening and enjoyable during the colder months. But if your power has gone out and your only light is a candle or a fire, or you simply want to exercise your creative muscles, try telling stories. If you’re looking for a prompt, try creating your stories around a central theme. For example, many Inuit stories draw on the relationship between nature and the people.
This is not particular to winter, and although Afternoon Tea can be enjoyed year-round, I find it even more enjoyable during the winter months, when hot tea is comparable to gold. Afternoon Tea is beneficial for those of us who become hungry during the lengthy intermission between lunch and dinner, because in addition to your tea, you may choose to enjoy sandwiches, pastries, biscuits, etc. I’m beginning to understand the importance in the accompaniment of a hot drink on a winter’s day.
The Canadian Outdoors
If you’re like me, you value your time outdoors in the winter. The cold air wakes you up in the morning, you like drinking hot chocolate outside after shoveling snow, and throwing snowballs. Maybe you’re also excited by the sound of skates carving and gliding across the ice while playing hockey on a pond. You can always go skiing or snowboarding, whatever you prefer. If you do prefer, however, staying inside, than a window view sounds more appropriate.
Photo courtesy of Greg Rakozy via stocksnap.io
Forslin, Liselotte, Rikard Lagerberg, Susanne Walström. “Fike: A social cup of coffee.” Sweden.se. https://sweden.se/culture-traditions/fika/. Last modified November 28, 2014.
Parknson, Justin. “Hygge: A heart-warming lesson from Denmark.” BBC News. Last modified October 2, 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34345791.
Robbie is an Online Managing Editor for onthedanforth.ca. He is usually writing, reading, playing ping pong, or spending time outdoors. If you have any winter pastimes to share with OTD, send him an email at email@example.com.