I moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina to get away from massive snowfall. And I did, honestly. My old town in New Hampshire suffered through a record three snow days in November, way before the snow normally starts. While things were chilly in Charlotte, the ground was brown, not white.
But, irony of ironies, Winter Storm Diego hit us a couple of weeks ago and not only did we have two snow days of our own, we got a solid week before the white stuff melted.
Honestly, I was kinda digging it. While I can’t make it through seven long months of white ground, seven days is manageable.
There’s something so cozy about winter. I find that in wintertime, December excluded, we tend to bunk down at home and spend more time together but less money. Probably because for the last few years, we’ve embraced the concept of hygge and home.
Hygge is, of course, the famous Danish concept of coziness. It’s the idea of making your home a warm and welcoming cave by lighting tea candles, building a great big fire (or turning up those gas logs), playing soothing music, and basically leaning in to the short, cold days of winter. Winter isn’t to be endured, according to the Danish, it’s to be embraced!
Since we only have to embrace a few months of cold weather (and it’s currently 55), I’m more than happy to enjoy what little truly cold weather we have, and transform our new house into a cozy nook.
Honestly, I think one of the reasons the idea of hygge has caught on recently is that it’s so nurturing to the soul. “Put down your smart phone,” it suggests, “pull out some blankets, throw a roast in the over, invite your family around.”
Eating comfort food is a big part of hygge; fancy is not. There’s even a word in Danish for those sweatpants you wear at home but wouldn’t be caught dead in anywhere else–hyggebukser.
Enter Hygge, and Winter Frugality
Part of the reason I love the idea of hygge is that it also entails focusing on your relationships. As you light your candles and place your throws over the sofa, the idea is to make a place for your family and friends to hang out together. Winter nights are much more fun to spend together, watching a family movie, or around a dining room table.
So where does frugality come in? Since it’s winter, and cold out and dark early, it only makes sense to forgo dinners out, road trips, movies, or other entertainment options. Last January, we ate almost all of our meals at home. For the past three years the months of January, February, and March have been some of our lowest-spending months on eating out.
Instead of going out to eat, or otherwise entertaining ourselves outside of the house, we focus our efforts on entertaining inside our cozy home.
Saturday Night Dinners
A few years ago, I read how a family opened their home up each and every Friday night of January and February to their friends. They put a note on Facebook, linked to a Google Signup Sheet, that offered the first ten people to sign up a place at their weekly spaghetti-and-meatball dinner. Mr. ThreeYear and I loved the idea and always planned to reproduce it. The best we ever did was to invite people over once per month.
This year, though, we thought we’d push for an every-other-Saturday night dinner. We’re starting this weekend, cramming in a dinner with several new neighborhood friends before we leave for the beach.
Our new home is smaller than our old home, and we’re going to have to feed people in stages (kids first, then adults). But we’re not letting that stop us. I thought about it, and realized that I have never been upset to be invited to dinner with someone, no matter what size their house. In fact, sometimes smaller houses invite more intimate conversation and discussion, and we end up having a better time.
We will either turn the “Crackling Fire” Netflix movie on our TV over the fireplace (yep, that’s really a thing) or we’ll light up our gas logs. No scented candles, because they interfere with the scent of the food.
I’m making a big batch of empanadas for the adults, and pizza for the kiddos. Salad, rice, and prepared dessert will complete the meal. We’ll enjoy a warm, happy, fun evening with our friends, and will be ready to go it again come January.
Our boys are happy to hang out with Mom, Dad, and Lucy the dog, especially when it’s family movie night. We use our air popper to make a big batch of buttery popcorn, then we scroll Netflix or Plex, an awesome new app we’ve discovered that lets us share movies between friends and families. We find a movie to enjoy, then have a nice night hanging out and laughing.
Mr. ThreeYear and I aren’t thinking about what we have to do, or projects we’d like to work on for the house. We’re just sitting and hanging out with our boys, keeping things lowkey and fun.
The Bane of Perfection
I have to admit that since we’ve moved to North Carolina, back to the South, where culturally people pay more attention to appearance and home decorating than they do in New England, I’ve been battling the comparison demon a little bit. Things I know I would have let slide in New Hampshire, like plants with weeds growing out of them, or a big mud pit in the back yard, are bothering me a bit more. But the nice thing about winter is, I don’t go outside as much, so it’s easier to forget about those goals. And when my house feels cozy and warm, I’m more likely to forget about all the indoor projects I’ve been thinking about as well.
The benefits of hygge are that they help me focus on the best parts of the cold, dark winter days–the people I get to spend those days with–and less on the needy, grasping materialism that can pop up in bright and sunny Spring.
Today’s the first day of winter vacation, and so far it’s going great. Mr. ThreeYear’s traveling. The dog’s already torn up my irreplaceable silk pillow we got as a souvenir from Bangkok and the boys are on electronics restriction. So, I’m going to take my own advice, start a fire, and embrace the wintry imperfection of it all.
How about you?