- In some parts of Sweden, January is characterised by 24-hour darkness.
- Swedes cope through a tradition called mys, or coziness. You hang out with friends and family, relax, and eat delicious food.
- The idea is to celebrate winter — instead of wishing it would be over.
If you visit northern Sweden in January, you’ll see something unusual outside. Actually, you won’t see anything at all — you’ll be engulfed in darkness, 24 hours a day.
To those of us who live in parts of the world where sunshine is plentiful, even during the winter, this might sound mildly … depressing.
Swedes, however, have learned to make the most of — and even revel in — their environment. A national pastime called mys, which translates roughly to coziness, involves relaxing, getting comfortable, and eating delicious food.
One mys tradition, called fredagsmys, or “cosy Fridays,” has its roots in a marketing campaign for chips that launched in the 1990s. The book “The Swedish Kitchen” reads:
“Fredagsmys takes on different shapes depending on who it is for: a couple, a family with kids and friends will all have their own variation. A key ingredient, however, is easy meals for which everyone is the master chef. Finger food and snacks are preferred to cooking and cleaning a pile of dirty pots and pans.
“On a Wednesday evening the kids may sit in front of the computer while the parents are busying themselves in the kitchen, but on Friday it is all about time together. Many also associate fredagsmys with watching television.”
Tacos — a variation on the chips theme — are commonly served during fredagsmys.
Swedish mys is similar to a Danish tradition called hygge, a word that’s pronounced “HOO-gah” and more or less translates to cosy. As INSIDER’s Megan Willett reported, Danes practicing hygge light candles, snuggle up under blankets, drink hot beverages, and enjoy each other’s company.
Hygge was a buzzword in 2016; there are multiple books on the topic, including the bestseller “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.”
Some Scandinavians, however, prefer a more adventurous celebration of winter.
The Scandinavian Winter Bathing Championship takes place in February, and swimmers dive into temperatures hovering around zero degrees. In addition to the swimming competition, there are seminars on the subject of cold and dark, as well as winter yoga in the park, according to a blog post on SwedishLapland.com.
The idea behind these — albeit disparate — strategies is to rejoice in everything cold, dark, and wintry, instead of bemoaning your fate. No matter where you live, it’s worth trying out some aspects of the Scandinavian winter lifestyle in your own winter routine.
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