Imagine looking forward to the cold and dark of winter.
Can you picture it?
Pulling out your favourite recipes and setting the fire
Finding those old comfy swollen sweaters and curling up under a warm blanket while reading a good book
Inviting friends over for sledding and board games, or watching the latest binge-worthy show on Netflix.
Snowshoeing through a forest muffled with snow, or skiing down the mountain towards dusk.
The Nordic countries know how to enjoy winter and the Danish have a term I’ve come to love.
It’s called hygge.
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Danish winters are long and dark, but not that much different than our Canadian winters. However, the Danes fight the darkness with their best weapon – hygge – and the warmth that goes along with it. Hygge, which can loosely translate into coziness is an idea that is strongly rooted in the sense of togetherness. It’s the idea that winter is a time to come together, to talk, to adventure, to not feel trapped away. It’s sitting by the fire on a cold night, wearing a wooly jumper, drinking apple cider, coffee or mulled wine, curling up with heavy socks and a good book or perfecting a new recipe. That warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life is the concept of hygge, a word that the more I write it the more I realize it was never meant to be translated – it was meant to be felt.
As a Canadian, I know a little about winter, and I’ve decided that this is the year that I’m going to burrow in and cozy up to the adventure that is the season of snow.
You’d better bookmark this page, we’re about to get down and hygge with these 27 ways to actually enjoy winter.
(p.s. – I’m all about celebrating local businesses – so you’ll find links in this post reflecting goods from the East Coast of Canada. Post your favourite local shops, stores and finds in the comments below so others from your region can celebrate local artisans as well!)
1. Find yourself a cozy blanket
Nothing says enjoying the coziness that winter can bring like a big, comfy blanket. I’ve got a whole pile of blankets that I pull out just for winter that I leave strewn about the house. No matter where I’m at I’m curled up in something soft, and it makes every surface inviting.
2. Find a new recipe to perfect (or mess up)
Sometimes the best dishes are accidents. Celebrate the best of winter with stews, roasts, broths and soups. A slow cooker might just become your best friend this winter because all you have to do is chop some veggies, braise some meat and set the timer. Easier than pie.
When you’re trying out new recipes have your friends over to test them out! Nothing invites good conversation and laughter like food. Julia Child had it right all along.
Check out my favourites at Food52, Fraiche Nutrition, Nutrition Stripped and My East Coast Kitchen for some inspiration.
3. Write a letter
And I do mean handwrite a letter. Opening up your mailbox to a handwritten letter is one of the most heartwarming things you can do. A quick note is all you need to remind someone that you care about them! Who knows, it might even strengthen your friendship!
Check out the phenomenal Melissa’s site [here] for some inspiration!
4. Host a sledding party
Find the closest hill and pull your old (or new) sled out of hiding. Winter is a time for exploration and adventure – not for letting your childhood toys collect dust. Remember the sledding parties of yore? We’d be out in the snow from sunup to sundown. The snow makes the landing soft, from what I can remember – and the best part is it’s completely free!
5. Light a candle
Take advantage of the early sunsets to read, converse or maybe even work by candlelight. There is something incredibly calming about the flickering of a candle, and the warmth that it gives off. All those problems seem to just… disappear.
6. Have a tasting party
Grab your friends and get each of them to bring over a local bottle of wine (or growler if you fancy a brew). Place every bottle in a paper bag and attach a number to it, then make your way through the options, scoring each as you go! You may be surprised at what you come up with!
Do you have access to Nova Scotia wines? Taste test each winery’s own Tidal Bay if you’re looking for a gathering idea! Each winery has their own take on the region’s best. If you’re not into wine, try some of the local ciders or brews. And for non-alcoholic beverages apple ciders are always a great go-to!
My favourites? Planter’s Ridge Winery, Luckett Vineyards, Gaspreau Vineyards, Annapolis Cider Company, Just Us Coffee
7. Get out the Snowshoes
There is no bad weather, there is only bad clothes. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you have to stay holed up inside. Get outside and into the forest and make the most of the season. Don’t have a pair of snowshoes? Borrow from a friend or rent a pair from a retailer, etc. If you’re really feeling brave head out the morning after a big snowfall and lay a new track on the hiking trails!
PS – both The Trail Shop and MEC rent out equipment – so definitely give that a go!
8. Head to the Beach
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t get out to the beach. Bundle up and go exploring (see above for reminder that there is no bad weather, there is only bad clothes). Take the camera out, find a unique view point or just watch the waves crash amongst the ice and rocks.
9. Lace up those Skates
Dig up your skates from the back of your closet or find a place that rents them out. One of the best parts about the winter is that you can find a multitude of outdoor rinks or frozen ponds around. In Halifax? Make sure you check out the Oval – and they have rental skates available there too!
10. Challenge someone to a Board Game
They say Monopoly can make or break a friendship, so maybe don’t take it that seriously – but board games can bring a multitude of people together for something that is fun (and cheap!). Want to get out of the house? Find your local board game cafe (or start your own) to try out a game you don’t own, and sometimes your local library even rents out games!
11. Embrace the Seasonal Produce.
Cooking with seasonal produce is healthier, cheaper and better for the environment. Plus, food that comes from the farm down the road tastes better. Also, why pay 5$ for a box of withered strawberries when you can make a sweet potato hash, or creamy tomato soup?
Want to buy local? Check out your local farmers market, visit Harvest Hand to find a local farm near you or go exploring to an area of your province/territory you haven’t seen yet!
My favourites? Tangled Garden, Fox Hill Cheese, Wolfville Farmers’ Market, Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market
12. Set a brunch invitation
Get-togethers need not be limited to summer patios and fruity drinks. Live it up this year with a wintery Sunday brunch! You can listen to cozy tunes, tuck into warm dishes and drink all the mulled wine you’d like (definitely not a go-to in July!). Want to fancy it up even more? Pull out those “good” dishes and light up a few candles!
13. Host a Movie Night
There’s little better than a movie, unless it means curling up with a big bowl of popcorn and snuggling under a cozy blanket. Make a list of all the movies you want to see and write them on a piece of paper, then when you’re looking for a title simply pull one option out of the hat (so to speak!).
Looking for some ideas? I’m big on Nostalgia. Give Annie, Mary Poppins, Ghostbusters, Finding Nemo and Legally Blonde a chance!
14. Build a fort
If there’s enough snow, take the time to build a snow fort. If you’re looking for something a little warmer, hijack all the pillows and blankets you can get your hands on and make a fort in your living room!
Maybe even a slumber party?
15. Strengthen a Friendship
Haven’t talked with someone in a while? Send a quick text or message inviting them out for coffee, tea, a drink or food. How about a winter walk or skating? The possibilities are endless, and reconnecting with friends is the best thing about the winter season. The holiday season can get a little crazy, but February is the month of love, right? Romantic relationships are all fine and dandy, but there’s many other people we love. You wouldn’t expect a significant other to go years without an expression of your affection – so why would you expect that from a friend? It’s never too late to reconnect!
Looking to meet new people? Check out the Fusion events in your city if you’re a young professional, or try a new meet-up group. Bumble (yeah the dating app), even has an option for people looking to make new friends!
16. Expand your palate
I think I’m a foodie at heart, and I love to eat. Love it. If I could marry food I would.
Try a new recipe out at home, pick up a vegetable/fruit/cut of meat you’ve never tried at the store before, or sample one of David’s Tea’s new blends at the store. The internet is killed with so many options for recipes that all you need is a quick google search, or check out a recipe book from the library.
Looking to go out to dinner? Try something like “Winterlicious” (in Toronto) or “Dine Around” (in Halifax) – most cities have something set up these days to introduce more people to the local restaurants at a reduced rate so take full advantage of it!
17. Make out with Maple Syrup
Canadian girl here (can you tell?). When March starts to hit, the sugar shacks are alive and well. Get out to the closest one you can find to take a tour, learn how to tap a tree and sample fresh maple syrup. If you’ve never tried maple syrup on snow you haven’t lived. It’s a Winter must!
Check out Sugar Moon Farm for some of the best maple syrup (and snowshoeing) around!
18. DIY Spa Night
Enjoy your next night in with a bunch of homemade moisturizing beauty treatments. That winter air can be a killer on your skin and hair, and that constant hat-wearing makes my hair all frizzy. Try out a treatment you can make at home and settle down for a long winter’s night!
19. Spice up your Wardrobe
New winter wardrobes don’t have to be expensive. Try warming up your wardrobe with a new pair of socks, slippers or fuzzy leggings. A bright hat or scarf can liven up any winter jacket and make it seem more cheerful than the sea of black and brown we tend to see.
For some down-home inspiration check out the ever amazing P’lovers, Sattva Boutique & Sweet Pea Boutique
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20. Find the sun
Our Vitamin D levels tend to drop in the winter, and as Canadians we’re usually pretty deficient as a population. Try and work in the sun as much as you can. Sit by a window in your office, take a quick 15 minute walk outside during your lunch hour (take your lunch break too!), or use a sun light if you’re really feeling those Seasonal Affective Disorder (see an article here) symptoms start to creep in.
21. Head out for a Hike
A Winter Walk might be just the thing you need to get you out and about this season. Collect fallen pinecones, branches and stones as you go to create a new table arrangement and breathe in the scent of pine. Plus, you may as well go ahead and test out those snowshoes (my favourite is Cape Split right after a snowfall) and catch a few snowflakes while you’re at it! Make the most of the beauty and quiet that are winter walks, and the workout will be just as good!
Rails to Trails, Fitzpatrick Mountain Trail, Cape Split and just about anywhere out in Sambro (read Duncan’s Cove) are great suggestions for getting your winter hiking underway. Don’t forget a warm cuppa something!
22. Perfect the Art of the Soup & Sandwich
What else can warm you up from the inside out other than the good old-fashioned soup and sandwich combo? For a full list of inspiration check out [this post] – but get adventurous with your lunches (and maybe even dinners). You’ll be surprise how easy this combo can be!
23. Warm Up in the Sauna
The purpose of a sauna is to provide a relaxed, cozy warmth, peaceful space and a sense of well-being. Combined with those that are outdoors or wood-fired there’s really no better way to cozy up in the middle of cold weather. Sauna’s can help relieve aches and discomfort, boost circulation, promote sweating and can even improve your skin – not to mention it busts stress like no one’s business.
Look for what’s around your area, or make use of the one at your local gym pre/post workout. If you’re in the Halifax area check out this wood-fired outdoor sauna – it’s the epitome of hygge.
24. Go for a Sleigh Ride
Most of the local farms in your area offer some sort of activity during the winter, so check them out and see what they’re offering. A midnight Sleigh Ride, or a midday Sleigh Ride with the kiddos is a fun way to get a new perspective on an area you might think you know well. How about hitching a ride on a dog sled? Then warm up with apple cider or hot chocolate around an open fire (or inside!).
25. Hit the Slopes
In my family winter is synonymous with skiing. Once the weather gets cold enough we’re waiting for the right amount of snow to hit the ground before breaking out the downhill skis, and the cross-country skis! Make sure you bundle up because those chairlifts can get chilly but there’s nothing more fun than pushing the speed on the slopes.
Not a skier? Look for tubing activities at your local hill. It’s a fun family friendly activity that gets everyone in one place.
26. Treat yourself to a new pair of slippers
I’m a sucker for the most fluffy pair of slippers you can find, and if they let me slide around the floors then even better! Waking up in the morning and putting your feet directly into comfy slippers makes the whole day better, and negates the whole cold floor anxiety that mornings like to be accompanied by.
27. Donate your time
Holiday season is the season for family, friends and giving back. Contact your local soup kitchen, food bank or seniors home to volunteer your time for someone else. Maybe you and your kids can go in to play cards/make cookies at the seniors home in your area, or bring supplies to your local soup kitchen and help make everything up.
No matter the holidays or just a winter day a good smile can truly change someone’s outlook – so try to set up a time to give back this winter. Now that’s a great way to hygge.
Planning a winter escape but still want to hygge? Check out these awesome east coast areas to consider!
Smith Rock Chalets (near Scotsburn, Pictou County)
The Spa at Chance Harbour
Trout Point Lodge
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