For us in northern climes, learning to live with the shortness of days and the long dark nights takes some getting used to; and tests our resilience. So, like our ancestors, we look for ways to comfort us as we roll headlong towards the fugacious Winter Solstice on December 21st.

Yet, although – unlike our forbears – we have the benefit of gas and electricity; it now costs more than double the price it did last year to heat, light and cook in our homes.

And if you live in Consett, like me, you will know all about trying to protect yourself from the wind and the cold.

I’m guessing we all feel the need to ‘gan canny’ with our spending and are looking for ways to save a little here and there. But we need not forgo all comforts; as on numerous occasions simple pleasures can be as fulfilling and rewarding as more expensive pursuits, without cranking up the pounds!

Making the space we live in as comfortable and welcoming as we can is very important to our physical, mental and emotional well being, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

The Danes have been doing this for centuries and are famously known world wide as the happiest nation.

So what is their secret?

Apparently it’s the little word ‘Hygge’ – pronounced ‘Hoo-gah’

Hard to say and even harder to translate, it’s not just a word, but a concept, and the best explanation I could find was given by the ‘Scandinavia Standard’:

‘Hygge is about cosiness and surrounding yourself with the things that make life good, like friendship, laughter and security, as well as more concrete things like warmth, light, seasonal food and drink.’

Reading this enticed me to think about my favourite things and what makes me happy. However, while Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music, favours ‘crisp apple strudels’ and ‘schnitzel with noodles’ I find myself leaning more towards a wondrous cold pint of Guinness and King Prawns Chilli and Garlic on toasted Ciabatta! Nonetheless I wouldn’t discount all her other choices in the song!

My childhood memories take me back to a time when our only source of heat was from the coal fire downstairs, banked up the chimney by my Dad using a blazer and a newspaper. As a family we happily sat around it, chatting and drinking Rowntrees milky cocoa. I loved the heat on the hearth toasting my Fair Isle stockinged feet as I snuggled inside my soft fluffy dressing gown, watching the light fading outside; intent on helping the lovely shadows of the flames dance on the wall behind us.

I also remember visiting Consett Baths in Winter, and after our swim, prancing round the changing rooms to raise my body temperature, before my friends and I made our way to the cafe upstairs; excitedly warming our hands around a steaming mug of bovril, while attempting at the same time, to devour a packet of Betty’s cheese and onion crisps.

In the run up to the celebration of Christmas or Winter season; the majority of us wrap up warm when outside, adding extra layers as well as gloves, scarves and hats while anticipating and embracing the cosiness of warmth when we are indoors. I love seeing my solar lights twinkle on the garden fence at dusk, and enjoy the shimmer from my flickering candles and fairy lights in the living room with my legs wrapped in a soft velveteen blanket.

And I look forward to visiting my family and friends in Consett who I know have amazing, comforting log burning stoves.

The visitdenmark.com website states:

‘In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.’

If you wish to find out more, treat yourself to The Little Book Of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking, founder of Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute, Or better still, make a list of your favourite things and allow them to
bring you happiness!

I’ll start you off:

  1. Yager’s Pork Specials

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