One of the greatest things about a Buffalo winter is the ability to experience downtime with family and friends. Come spring, Buffalonians have little time for get-togethers because they are too busy partying, boating, and simply frolicking about. Then, when the cold weather sets in, the fireplaces are lit, the hot drinks are served, as families reunite, bond, and share stories and food. It is this time of year that many believe that families are most happy in Buffalo. Despite some people complaining about the cold and the snow, winter is generally a time of year that Buffalonians simply relax. They tend to take more time off from work. They go to bed earlier, because the days are shorter, and they take the time to regroup with family.
Now this doesn’t happen with everyone of course, but it does happen with a lot of people. Just walk down the streets in the evenings and look at all of the holiday lights inside and outside of the houses. See the chimney smoke? Doesn’t everything appear to be calmer? Quieter?
Local musician Ani DiFranco once noted that winter was her favorite time of year in Buffalo because it gave her the time to slow down and be creative. It was the time of year that she formulated many of her songs.
I’ve always been a big fan of winter for many of these same reasons, and more. I can take the cold more than I can take oppressive heat. To me, if you know how to dress in winter, then you’ve won the battle. I love walking the dog at night in the wintertime. Everything appears to be so fresh and new. The holiday lights and decorations tell me a lot about certain blocks, and how proud people are of their homes. Historic homes with snow covered roofs. Neighbors that offer greetings as they pass. When people ask me why I love Buffalo, winter (the four seasons) is always high up on the list.
I recently learned about a Scandinavian “way of life” that might be the reason that I love winter so much. It’s called Hygge (pronounced HOO-gah). I read about it in this NY Times article. According to the article, Hygge is the Danish word for “cozy”. It’s the act of coming together (friends and family) to be with one another, and to share the simple things in life, such as a space in front of a fireplace, or a cup of hot cocoa, or a warm blanket with someone. Just the other night, a friend came over and I gave her a pair of warmer socks to wear – seeing the look on her face, I don’t think she will ever take them off. Last night, I had dinner with extended family, and after the meal everyone simply sat around the fire enjoying each other’s company. Often times, when I get home, I will light some candles, make a hot drink, toss on my mukluks, and sit before the fire. Any other time of year, I’m simply not home – there’s too much to do.
Until learning about Hygge, I wasn’t aware that all of the reasons that I love winter had a name. Now, for the first time ever, other countries are looking to the Danes to glean this “state of mind” that contributes to their society as being one of the happiest on the planet.
The way I look at it is this: When mainstream America (aka TV) tells you what you should be doing, wearing, eating, etc., chances are that you should be doing the exact opposite. Instead, stay at home and find the your perfect hyggekrog (cozy nook) and break out a board game with a loved one. It’s a time to disconnect and unplug. It’s a singular moment of clarity that you just won’t get elsewhere. It’s the primal feeling of being safe. It’s something that you just can’t go out and buy, which makes it a level playing field for everyone.
I believe that Buffalo has been practicing the art of Hygge for as long as there has been snow on the ground. I believe that it’s one of the things that makes us who we are. We rally around the cold and the snow, by rallying around our friends and family. It make us more giving. It makes us more humble. Winter calms us down and settles our souls.
In this day and age, when the crux of society is all about being on the go 24-7, we must remember that it’s just not natural. Hygge (HOO-gah) should be a rallying cry for all Buffalonians. It’s who we are, and who we will always be. There’s nothing wrong with being a tight-knit community that looks out for one-another. There’s something to be said for a city that takes the time to decompress in the winter, and reemerge in the spring feeling rested and full of life.