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The art of hygge for comfort, support

I've been hearing a lot about hygge (pronounced hoo-guh) of late. If you've had your head tucked under a pillow in a nest of warm blankets you may have missed the word, but you are on to the sentiment.

Hygge comes from the Danish culture and while it's accepted that there is no English word, which exactly translates, comfort is the closest cousin. Hygge goes beyond the concept of creature comforts, though, to add a spirit of conviviality with friends, family and community. To make that point, the word derives from hugga, meaning to comfort and hold.

When it comes to winter, hygge is all the buzz. It's the trend word that gives us permission to take measured pleasure in any and all things that wrap us in warmth and contentment, easing the hardships of long gray days and cold dark nights.

As the poet Edith Stillwell said: "Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire. It is the time for home."

Still, hygge is more. It calls for a spirit of embracing life on the simplest levels, of going out into the cold, taking a hike, skiing, snowshoeing or chopping the wood for that cozy fire that is going to feel so good once we're back inside.

It's about balance, about finding the good to ease the bad, but also sharing the good in equal measure with those around you. It's about coming together with friends and community in celebration and appreciation for the good things in life.

We do hear a lot more about hygge when it's cold or times are trying, but it's not just about seeking solace and comfort through adversity. Life is a series of ups and downs, of good times and bad — one will always, eventually, follow the other. Hyggee, I think, is about learning to not only appreciate the simple pleasures in life, but to choose them with intent and without shame, for no reason and for every reason.

So hygge may be snuggling down with the family or friends, wrapped in warm blankets, with fuzzy socks on your feet and hot drinks in your hands while the winter wind howls at the door, but it's also gathering under the summer stars for an outdoor concert with a cooler of iced beverages, sharing a blanket spread out in the shade of tree, eating ice cream cones with sprinkles or sitting around a campfire on the beach.

However, since we are smack in the middle of a quintessential Wisconsin winter, here is some cold weather hygge you might want to indulge in.

Take the kids ice-skating or sledding. Bring hot cocoa in thermoses and warm blankets to wrap up in while drinking it.

Make a date with friends (or a special someone) for a winter walk under the stars, bundled up in all your coziest winter outerwear. Warm up afterwards over coffee and desert.

Enjoy breakfast in bed. Keep it simple but sumptuous with finger foods like berries, deviled eggs, toast points with honey or jam and your favorite coffee or tea.

A fondue party is maybe the most hygge thing you can do on a cold winter's day or night, but if all that melted cheese in pots is too fussy for you, have a pizza party instead. Don't just order in for delivery; instead make or buy small crusts (or use English muffins), lay out a buffet of pizza toppings, sauce and cheese, and let everybody make their own. [Text Wrapping Break]

Plan a night of fireside games, whether card games, board games or video challenges. No fireplace? Create the atmosphere (if not the heat) with a tray of pillar candles in glass jars to reflect the flickering light.

Bake cookies for no reason other than to eat them when they're done. Eat them while they're still warm.

Knit or crochet a winter scarf and mittens. Don't know how? Ask a friend who does to teach you. If a scarf and mittens seems like too much at first, make cotton dishrags and give them away as gifts.

And finally, my most favorite hygge thing to do in the winter—spending the day in jammies, or hyggebuksers (baggy, comfortable pants you wouldn't wear outside the house), snuggled up on the sofa, binge watching movies. My favorites are the Rodgers and Hammerstein's musicals.

Judith Liebaert writes for Positively Superior and the Duluthian. She is the author of "Sins Of The Fathers," a crime novel set in Superior and inspired by a true cold case. Find her online at judithliebaert.com.

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