Hygge Hudson Valley: The Danish Secret to Surviving Upstate Winters

Winters in the Hudson Valley can be brutal, but we’re going to show you ten ways to cope.

The days are short, and the nights are dark, and full of terror. Studies link the cold weather and lack of sunlight to Seasonal Affective Disorder, weight gain, migraines, increased flu and heart attacks, dry skin, dangerous travel conditions, power outages and lean times for shops and restaurants.

Thanks to The Nino, it’s been a historically warm and mild winter, but we’ve still had our hours of sunlight slashed from a peak of 15 hours a day to 9 or 10. And according to Hudson Valley Weather’s 2015/2016 predictions, “February will be the harshest month of the coming winter.” Winter is coming.

Denmark has it even worse. Their winters get just as bad as ours, with average temperatures right around freezing, but due to their location in the north, they get only seven to eight hours of daylight during the depths of winter. The sun will come up at 8:30 a.m., and set by 3:30 p.m. Despite all of that, the Danes consistently rank in the top three in the annual World Happiness Report.

It’s because they’re obsessed with being hygge. It’s pronounced “heurgha,” and has no direct translation in English, and can be used as a noun, adjective or verb. According to the Telegraph, it’s best explained as this:

“The absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things.”

Here’s more from a hygge expert:

“We are hygge fundamentalists,” says Meik Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen: “You hear hygge being talked about all the time – by everyone, no matter who they are. It is, Wiking explains, a key performance indicator of any Danish social gathering. “We talk about hygge things coming up that we’re looking forward to; we point out when something hygge is happening right now; then we like to talk about what a great ‘hyggelit’ (hygge-like) time we’ve had afterwards.”

It’s easy to fall into bad patterns in the winter. To snap out of it, here are our tips for staying HYGGE in the Hudson Valley this year:

1. Candles

Weird Beard Candle Co
Soy wax candles made in small batches that are hand poured in Troy, New York.

There’s just something about hanging out in the light of fuzzy, flickering candles (that optionally smell really good) that makes you feel cozy. I’m a big fan of the Weird Beard Candle Co’s soy wax candles, which are hand-made in Troy, NY.

2. Adult coloring books

Kingston Creative coloring books
Kingston Creative coloring books!

You may have noticed that coloring books are totally LIT right now, bae. Even if you have zero artistic talent (like me), there’s some simple pleasure to turning away from electronics and concentrating on a tactile task while listening to a colored pencil rub against the paper. Along with some local artists (Emily ScottSweetAmbsBritney ScottMatt EmelRyan Darnley), we’re getting ready to release a cats and dogs-themed Kingston Creative coloring book, and part of the proceeds will go to local animal organizations. Sign up here to find out more.

3. A meal with friends

Jon's Bread
Jon’s Bread Old World, Small-batch Organic Sourdough – Kingston NY

Getting your squad together for a relaxed meal can inspire the comfyfeels. Preferably with some kind of warm, unctuous stew or homemade soup, with bread for dippin’. We love getting meat from Northwind Farms in Tivoli for this purpose, and Jon’s Bread.

4. A winter farmers market

Kingston Winter Farmers Market
Wright’s Farm apple cider donuts, sparkly goodness!

Farmers Markets are a cultural institution in Kingston and Rhinebeck during the spring and summertime. It may be less popular, but the winter versions are worth attending too. You can still haggle with local vendors, silently pick out Brooklyn tourists, catch up with your neighbors and friends, and listen to music in a cozy indoors environment. And the food usually comes from within 30-40 miles of the market!

5. Reading

The Pizza Book
A cookbook written by two friends committed to spreading happiness through home made pizza.

Curling up with a good book with lots of pictures can be very hygge. Two that are tied into our region are Welcome to Marwencol, by Mark Hogencamp (soon be played by Steve Carell!) and The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America, by Stephen Silverman. It’s not available yet, but I also suspect the recently Kickstarted title The Pizza Book by Aaron Quint and Michael Bernstein will be very hygge.

6. Fire

hygge fireplaceIf you don’t have a fireplace, go somewhere that does. The Hoffman House in Kingston, Foster’s Coach House Tavern or Shelter Wine Bar in Rhinebeck all have hearty food and a fireplace to be warm by.

7. Booze

Tousey Winery
It’s Cabernet Franc weather at Tousey Winery!

The Hudson Valley, despite having only 500 acres of vineyards, is a booze mecca. You can get Tousey Winery Pinot Noir at the aforementioned farmers markets or at their tasting room, or get a growler of Keegan Ales Mother’s Milk at their location in Kingston, or maybe a little bottle of Tuthilltown Spirits’ Baby Bourbon from Gardiner for the really cold nights.

8. Listen to records

Rocket Number 9 Records
Rocket Number 9 Records in Kingston, NY

There’s something about vinyl that’s warmer. Instead of clicking a file on your phone, you’re carefully handling vinyl that might be decades old. You’re lowering a needle into a groove. There are crackling and popping noises. You’re limited to your well-worn collection of selected favorites. Just pick up some records and invest several hundred dollars in a record player and speakers at Rhino Records or Rocket Number Nine and try it sometime!

9. Wear a scarf or a hat

Bop to tottom
Fabulous store with the latest in fashion accessories, lighting, gifts, and jewelry. Necessities, frivolities & embellishments for everyday life.

Bop to Tottom has a lot of hygge gear.

10. Treat yoself

Spending time with loved ones is very hygge.

From reading articles about Danish culture, it’s clear that they exercise great self-care. They don’t subject themselves to yo-yo diets, and have the self-control not to binge and purge on booze and crappy food. By giving themselves some hygge time, they’re able to focus on what’s most important: spending quality time with their loved ones, and being happy.

Let’s Unleash Your Business Potential