Britta Arendt

Grey skies linger over Grand Rapids as people scurry to prepare for the coming snow. Deer hunters who exhausted their efforts to no avail return home disappointed. Upcoming family get-togethers require solving complicated scheduling puzzles. And the holiday lists are starting to pile adding stress to bank accounts.

We’re headed into what’s supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year. So why do I feel so burdened with anxiety? The clock won’t stop ticking, the calendar won’t stop flipping. I’ve got to shake these winter holiday blues ASAP!

I’m hoping to rely on the culture of my ancestors for some help.

The Norwegian word “koselig” (pronounced koosh-lee) is often translated to mean “cozy” in English but it is not just an adjective. In Norway, it is considered more of a verb - a feeling, state of mind or being, a quality bestowed by anything that makes your day a bit better and your heart a bit warmer. Koselig evokes intimacy, warmth, happiness, contentment. It means a world lit by candles and snuggled under blankets.

A CNN report on why Norwegians are so happy described “koselig,” as a combination of nature, companionship and coziness promoting personal well-being.

Koselig has also been likened to “the best parts of Christmas, without all the stress.” That’s exactly what I need. Starting in mid-November, Norwegians gather around wood fires, drink warm beverages, listen to good music, and attend community festivals - creating the sense that everyone is in it together.

A Stanford University research study found that Norwegians view winter as something to be enjoyed, not something to be endured. For me, this will no doubt take a lot of practice.

From my searches, I’ve learned there is no manual to living koselig - to know how to be and make things koselig in all circumstances. Norwegians do it naturally and it is very obvious to them what is koselig and what isn’t, according to the blog A Frog in the Fjord.

Apparently, anything and anyone can be described as “så koselig!” Or, “so cozy!” It can be a home, a conversation, a dinner, a friend, even a stranger.

According to A Frog in a Fjord, if you’re in Norway and a person leaves your house and says “det var kjempe koselig” (it was very cozy), they’ll probably follow that with a klem (a Norwegian hug).

To be så koselig, it’s suggested to surround yourself with warm, relaxing colors, candles and soft clothing. They describe it as creating an inner summer to feel like it’s warm during the darkest of days. I can certainly imagine how this would help.

I’ve learned that being koselig is about seizing the moment. Like in the summer, when the sun is warm enough to jump in the lake or float in a boat in a light dress or shorts. The moment, in the winter, is when there is enough snow to go skiing with friends or your kid or your dog and then enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and warm pancakes with your favorite maple syrup while warming your toes in front of the fireplace.

I hoping this state of mind will lift my spirits from under the stress of the holidays, the cold weather and the darker days. I hope to start looking forward to these coming days when my wool socks and mittens are required, the smell of woodsmoke soaks into our home, and my dad shares some lefse at Thanksgiving and Christmas - så koselig!

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