Scandinavian traditions to get you through the January blues

And just like that, 2020 has ended and we look forward with a bunch of hope and careful excitement to 2021 with wishes for a better year.

The month of January can always be a bit of a tough month to get through especially if you live in the northern part of the world as I do. Long dark days are still there but now without the cheering up of Christmas lights throughout the streets. At times the holidays ask a lot of energy and then you are in the month of January trying to regain some energy while its dark and dreary outside. Perhaps you’ve overspent on Christmas gifts and financially the end of the month cannot come soon enough. In any way, it is a tough month!

But even though the people in the Nordics struggle with winter depressions, they have also found some great ways and rely on some great traditions to get them through the darker months. Here are some traditions that might give you a boost this month to stay in a positive mindset in case the January blues are hitting you hard.


Of course, the first fantastic Danish concept of Hygge is one to take full advantage of during the beginning of the year. For the few out there that have still not heard of the Danish phrase “hygge” or “hyggelig”, in short it translates to the feeling of coziness and togetherness. Creating a hygge atmosphere for yourself can be as simple as setting up a reading corner in your house, finding your favourite blanket, lighting some candles and pouring yourself a hot beverage. Hygge can also be snuggling up on the couch together with someone to watch a classic movie with a cup of tea or hot chocolate in your hands. And hygge can refer to that warm feeling you get by being with loved ones and simply enjoying the moment.

So, there is my advice: create for yourself those moments of warmth either by yourself in front of a crackling fire (in case you have a fire place) or together with someone. Both Swedes and Norwegians also follow this concept strongly but have their own terms for it, namely; Mysig and Koselig. The Norwegian term Koselig comes closest to Hygge, where Mysig relates more to physical cosy places such as a cosy café, or a cosy corner, and less to the feeling that comes from it.

The Scandinavian mentality

The second advice from up north would be to think about which mentality you have over this period of time. Our thoughts steer our emotions, and in many ways, we can uplift ourselves if we have a different perspective on certain situations. There are some fantastic phrases and sayings that will make this crystal clear:

  1. “Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder” – A Swedish saying translating to: ”There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. Fantastic way to instead of complain about the weather, to wear an extra layer next time you go outside and you will not even notice the cold.
  2. “Lykke” – Not so much a phrase as just a simple Danish word, however just like hygge, lykke has become more of a concept to strive after than simply a word. Literally it translates to “happiness” but the Danes more often use the word the describe the pursuit of happiness. And that can be anything for yourself, be it planning to travel again, making it cosy in your house (here hygge and lykke come together), making plans to see some friends again, as long as you are chasing lykke your spirits will automatically be lifted.
  3. The third one is more of a general mentality of the Nordic people than a phrase or word, but the big difference between people from the North and people that live in more Southern regions, is that Northerners do not look at winter as something to survive, but as a season just as much part of the year as warmer months. Many Scandinavians are very much outdoors in winter being it skiing, snowboarding, hiking, or skating over frozen lakes. They appreciate and take in the natural wonders of winter’s beauty and sometimes even complain if there is not enough snow. The word “Friliftsliv” which is a Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian word, best describes this attitude and translates closely to embracing the outdoors and immersing yourself in the landscapes of mother nature.

The Finnish kakkukahvi

Kakkukahvi, it will take you a while before you can easily pronounce it, but it means something very useful in cold winter months. Imagine having been outside for a while and unfortunately you did not clothe yourself well enough (yes we can hear you Swedes, “no such thing as bad weather..”), then you come home pour yourself a cup of coffee and a slice of cake to then allow yourself to take a moment and enjoy this treat because you’ve gone through the challenging winter weather outside. Kakkukahvi in that way relates to self-care, sometimes it’s good to take that moment to give yourself a small treat because it’s been a rough day or simply because you deserve it.

The Swedes also have a famous term for a coffee and cake break that you might have heard of already: a fika. The difference between the two terms and the two countries is that a fika can also refer to actively going out to a café with a friend and doing a fika, or when visiting someone at home and having a fika, it does not necessarily mean that moment you take for yourself. Either way taking those moments over a hot beverage with some sweets are so delightful, it also brings that hygge/mysig/koselig atmosphere and we should simply do it more often!

So before we can travel all over the world again, let’s take this month of January to create some moments of luxury ourselves in our own homes, let’s change our mindset when we feel down, and definitely not forget to pour ourselves that cup of coffee when its most needed.

Simone Kruithof is a Partner at Scandinavian Hospitality. Scandinavian Hospitality specializes in luxury villa rentals in the Nordics, bringing a five-star level of service to the privacy of your vacation home, and representing some of the most extraordinary homes in Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

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