On first glance, our Comforts of Winter reading program might be perfectly captured by the the word “hygge” — the Scandinavian concept of simple and contented living. It seems hygge (pronounced ‘hue-guh’) is discussed on an annual basis when fall and winter roll around, and one usually finds the idea of a cozy evening surrounded by books, blankets and candles picturesque, but perhaps a bit limiting. Considering we were all cooped up in our homes for most of last year, we’re likely in for a massive case of cabin fever this winter. Friluftsliv to the rescue!
What is friluftsliv (pronounced ‘free-loofts-liv’), you may ask? Well, the word literally translates to “open air living” and refers to the Nordic tendency to spend time in nature regardless of the weather. The term was coined by Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, but the concept has likely been a part of Scandinavian culture long before his time. Norway, Denmark and Sweden all have a long-established tradition of roaming or camping throughout the countryside, whether it be during mid-summer or the dead of winter. In the U.S., if you wander onto someone’s land in any season, you might get yourself into a bit of trouble, but Scandinavian countries actually have laws that protect the wandering nature lover so long as they show respect for flora, fauna and people.
U.S. nature lovers have instead their local city, state and national parks systems. This winter, why not get out and take advantage of the lovely parks in your neck of the woods? Enjoy the spare beauty of a mature Sycamore tree, admire a frosty forest, contemplate the soaring flight of a hawk. Sure it’s a bit chilly, but as they say up North, there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing. Bundle up and find yourself amazed at the peaceful delights of nature.
When you get back home, all the comforts of hygge will be there waiting for you. Your first cup of hot chocolate will taste that much better when you’ve earned it with a chilly morning walk! If you decide to investigate further, you’ll likely find that hygge and friluftsliv are really bound up with one another. You cannot have hygge without friluftsliv. Enjoyment of nature is essential to Scandinavian well-being. To help you along on your winter adventure, visit this hygge booklist for more tips and ideas. Happy wandering! While you’re at it, sign up for The Comforts of Winter program, set your own reading goals and get a neat prize!