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Winter is coming, and best we be prepared. However mild he predications are now, however hopeful we stay, however experienced we may be, it’s going to get cold, wet, icy, chilly, snowy, and still more unbearably cold for some amount of time. Welcome to Buffalo.

Getting ready for winter takes several different forms. The obvious and important deal with making sure you’re always going to have heat, shelter, food, and protection against getting snowed in or out of your car. Those are all significant in surviving winter. So that’s first.

However, we don’t want to just survive winter though, nor do we just want to tolerate it. There is no reason we can’t embrace the coldest, darkest of seasons, and create that which we need everywhere we go and in everything we do.

‘Hygge’ is a Scandinavian way of thinking that creates and maintains warmth, comfort, and joy amid the potentially dispiriting season of winter – and in that part of the world, winter happens a lot. Primarily Danish, but adopted by Norwegians and others, Hygge offers happiness and coziness when the user is fully engaged with his or her surroundings, creating an oasis free from the despair of winter.

Here’s are some ways you can create that warmth in Western New York this coming season.

Hot Tubs and Saunas

Unfortunately, Buffalo isn’t quite set up like cities and towns in Denmark when it comes to saunas and spas. There is a reason cultures in cold climates embrace such warming devices – because they’re great! Hot tubs, steam rooms, saunas can all improve your mental and physical health during the winter when light, heat, and even moisture aren’t always easily available.

It's worth the expense and effort to find a way to one of these such escapes, be it at a spa or a fortunate friend’s house. Also, if you’re settled in Buffalo for decades to come, it’s absolutely worth investing in a sauna or hot tub. They are therapeutic to the mind and body, and will offer a welcome respite. Not for nothing, but a quick dash between a hot tub outside and the door to the house is a lot of fun when you’re half naked and there is snow on the ground.

Hot Drinks

Ditch the beer for something with a little more coziness this winter. Drinking may warm the soul, but it’ll warm the body too if that drink isn’t coming out of the fridge. To go with your warm meals and warm blankets should be warm drinks, and it’s worth putting some effort in.

There are numerous cocktails you can make in the winter time that are served hot, and this time of year, cinnamon, chocolate, nutmeg, pumpkin, and honey are among your best drink-making friends. Spiced rum, whiskey, Bailey’s (almond milk option available) are all useful in making the beverage of choice that keeps you warm throughout the night (or day, depending). If making hot cocktails and heating up beverages is too much, you can always just stick to mulled wine. Just make sure every drink is special.

Candles and Flames

In the cold of winter, candles should be a regular, consistent daily thing. Daylight is much shorter, and chances are it’s only going to be light out when you’re at work. That means a lot of time spent at home with the lights on. Only instead, you should be turning the lights off and investing in candles. Wherever and whenever you can, opt for the natural flame instead of the artificial lights that you’re going to be dealing with for weeks and months on end. Candles when you’re in the tub for sure, candles when you’re eating a meal, and candles when you’re watching TV. They don’t even have to be the nice smelling ones, though that helps.

It's surely worth looking into salt lamps and others that attempt to replicate the natural benefits of sunlight, but flames help immensely. You’re not going to be happy enduring months of winter with all the lamps, no matter how much the bulbs say they’re good for you. It’s hard to replace the energy from the natural glow. And hey, if you’ve a fireplace, absolutely get that going whenever you can.

Board Games

Part of Hygge is creating fun indoors while also avoiding screens, and surely the best way is to take up a tangible, physical board game with friends. But it must be more than just pulling out a deck of cards or something simple like Guess Who.

Now, if we are really going to conquer winter with board games, it needs to be something especially creative, particularly engaging, and that takes some time and energy investment. Sci-fi, fantasy, and role-playing games are great in the winter, and in particularly those games where you and friends are playing together against some threat as opposed to playing against each other. Those games that take time, strategy, and ingenuity are best enjoyed in the winter time – games like Settlers of Catan, Eldritch Horror, and Pandemic. Look for those that you can spend some mental energy in – it’s not just passing time, it’s about enjoying it.

Stay Focused

Ultimately, we’re wasting our time and energy if we are just waiting for winter to pass. The goal should be to be as engaged in possible, to spend your time and energy making yourself warm and comfortable and stimulating. Bundling up and watching TV is fun, but making a hearty meal with speciality winter cocktails ahead of a board game night is so much more rewarding. You don’t have to endure winter, you can create your own unique world away from the cold and gray.

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Anthony Marcusa

Consumer of culture, watcher of films, and purveyor of opinions.
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