Get Cozy: Practicing Hygge With Your Family at Home

Winter's grip got you good? Embrace the cold and hunker down with your kids and family by practicing hygge — the Danish art of getting cozy.

Ask Michiganders what their least favorite season is, and you’ll likely hear “winter.” The frigid cold, icy roads and shorter days are, frankly, dreadful.

Enter the Danish concept of “hygge” — pronounced “hoo-ga.” For the Scandinavian folks across the pond, the winter months are something to look forward to — it’s a time to embrace all things comforting and set time aside for good company.

Warm lighting, baked goods, steaming drinks and plush pajamas are hallmarks of the “hygge” life. The concept became popular a few years ago; since then, local libraries have rolled out “cozy” programs of their own, featuring crafts, drinks and candles (flameless ones, of course).

Here are some ways to bring the hygge home with your family this winter.

Become one with the couch

“I have kids, and the most wonderful time is when we’re all together,” says Michelle Williamson, a reference librarian with the Ferndale Area District Library at the time of this article’s publication. “We’re biased here, but we like books, and reading on the couch with your child is a good way to create hygge for free.”

She says putting phones and computers away is an easy way to make sure everyone is present together.

Earn your hygge

“The best way to be cozy is by first venturing outside in good gear, since kids are perfectly comfortable outside in proper boots and hats,” Williamson says. “When you’ve been outside and cold and then you come inside — then you get the hot cocoa.”

Pets like hygge, too

“Cuddling is another hygge idea,” says Elissa Zimmer, a former youth services librarian at the Ferndale library. “Especially if you have pets, cuddling is a great opportunity to bond with the pet.” Plus getting everyone together for a group cuddle on the couch while you watch a movie is a great way to stay warm.

Engage the senses

One element of hygge is engaging the senses — the more the better. Sense of smell is sometimes overlooked, but Zimmer says incorporating candles in “the smells of the season” like cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla can up the hygge factor. “Listen to the birds outside and learn about bird watching,” adds librarian Erin Helmrich from the Ann Arbor District Library at the time of interview. Bonus points if you craft the bird feeder yourself.

It’s the little things

“You could really set the mood with a fireplace or candles, or even just dimming the lights,” says Darlene Hellenberg, assistant director and librarian at Ferndale’s library.

“Popcorn on the stove instead of the microwave and putting on your favorite pj’s (even if it’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon) makes it more special.” And yes, she says, a blanket fort is essential.

Set an activity

It can be a craft, board games or even a movie — so long as everyone is engaged together.

“Looking through old photos, telling stories about grandparents and showing pictures can be a great way to embrace that togetherness,” Helmrich says. “My kids love to bake,” Williamson adds. “It’s a little bit of math, it’s very tactile and even toddlers can help.”

Get hygge at the library

Mom and dad can get a little hygge help at adult-only workshops, too.

The Ann Arbor District Library has offerings like knitting, crocheting, jigsaw puzzles, quiet reading and warm drinks. And the Ferndale Area District Library has themes ranging from confetti luminaries to house plants.

Stay at home and make some beet chili

Don’t feel like going out? Warm lighting, hot drinks, yummy treats and soft blankets to snuggle in are hallmarks of the hygge life. We suggest pulling out the candles to dine by candlelight with hot bowls of chili while in your comfiest PJs. You can try making this beet chili. Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients

  • 2 onions
  • 7 small cloves of garlic
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 serrano pepper
  • 1 fresno pepper
  • 1 habanero pepper (take seeds out for less spicy)
  • 1 32-ounce can vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans

Directions

  1. Cut onions small and fry onions for 5 minutes or so, or until caramelized if you. Add some salt to your liking.
  2. Add garlic. Fry for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add whole can of vegetable stock. Let that simmer for a few minutes.
  4. Add spices and can of crushed tomatoes. Let everything simmer for 1 hour.
  5. Peel 3 beets. Add olive oil to beets then roast in oven for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and add beets to pot.
  7. Add tomato paste and let simmer for 30 minutes with cover on pot
  8. Add beans and let simmer for 30 minutes with lid off. Then you’re done, eat up!

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Amanda Rahn
Amanda Rahn
Amanda Rahn is a freelance journalist, copy editor and proud Detroiter. She is a graduate of Wayne State University’s journalism school and of the Columbia Publishing Course at Oxford University. Amanda is a lover of translated contemporary fiction, wines from Jura and her dog, Lottie.

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