The Norwegians do winter really well. Here is how they do it.
To be sure, there are some aspects of the near-polar culture that might be hard to emulate elsewhere. Small Norwegian communities are tightly knit, and strong social ties increase well-being everywhere. That said, there are lessons that can help anyonethink differently about cold weather.
First, Norwegians celebrate the things one can only do in winter. “People couldn’t wait for the ski season to start,” says Leibowitz. Getting outside is a known mood booster, and so Norwegians keep going outside, whatever is happening out there. Notes Leibowitz: “There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
Norwegians also have a word, koselig, that means a sense of coziness. It’s like the best parts of Christmas, without all the stress. People light candles, light fires, drink warm beverages, and sit under fuzzy blankets. There’s a community aspect to it too; it’s not just an excuse to sit on the couch watching Netflix. Leibowitz reports that Tromsø had plenty of festivals and community activities creating the sense that everyone was in it together.
And finally, people are enamored with the sheer beauty of the season. Leibowitz grew up near the Jersey shore, and “I just took it as a fact that everyone likes summer the best.” But deep in the winter in Norway, when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, multiple hours a day can still look like sunrise and sunset, and against the snow, “the colors are incredibly beautiful,” she says. “The light is very soft and indirect.”
Most likely you can’t cross-country ski straight out of your house, and while Norwegian sweaters may be catching on, restaurants and coffee shops in more temperate climates don’t all feature the fireplaces and candles common to the far north. Still, there are little things non-Norwegians can do. “One of the things we do a lot of in the States is we bond by complaining about the winter,” says Leibowitz. “It’s hard to have a positive wintertime mindset when we make small talk by being negative about the winter.”
This is easy enough to change; simply refuse to participate in the Misery Olympics. Talk about how the cold gives you a chance to drink tea or hot chocolate all day. Talk about ice skating, or building snowmen. Bundle up and go for a walk outside, knowing that you’ll likely feel warmer and happier after a few minutes. Better yet, go with a friend. Social plans are a great reason to haul yourself out from under the covers.
But overall, mindset research is increasingly finding that it doesn’t take much to shift one’s thinking. “It doesn’t have to be this huge complicated thing,” says Leibowitz. “You can just consciously try to have a positive wintertime mindset and that might be enough to induce it.”
A roaring fire is essential for any sub-zero soiree. Marshall’s monumental outdoor wood-burning fireplace ideally blends contemporary design with the rustic charm of burning logs and the convenience of natural gas. It’s a design focal point that leaves room for a view of the birch trees beyond. Plus, it’s fitted with a gas log starter so you don’t have to be a boy scout to get the fire going and keep it cheerfully burning.
Since we don’t all have a fireplace professionally built into the deck, portable ones of all sizes, styles and prices are the next best thing. For an elegant, eco-friendly solution, Marshall suggests looking at a model by EcoSmart Fire. They’re beautifully designed, fuss-free and fuelled with clean-burning bioethanol. Budget friendlier solutions include metal tables with built-in fire pits, fire bowls and chimneys — just take care to place these on a large frost-resistant stone or porcelain tile surface. Marshall places a large tile in front of her fireplace to protect the wood deck from any stray embers.
Biting wind is an unwelcome party crasher, so arrange furnishings and other elements in such a way that creates a cozy enclave. Start by making sure your sofa and/or chairs are a comfortable distance from the fire and draped with plush throws for added warmth and texture. Tip: If you’re stoking a wood-burning fire, be sure to have logs nearby so that guests aren’t shivering while you trek off to a distant wood pile to replenish. Here, ample firewood is stacked in stylish pewter log holders right next to the fireplace.
In Marshall’s space, the height of the fence and walls are intended for privacy, but it also helps block wind from the seating areas. If you don’t have a fence, try flanking your seating area with tall potted cedars or winter planters (more on these later), which are pretty and practical.