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You Call It Hygge, I Call It Cruise Ship – Or How to Get Through the Long Winter

By Nicole Christina February 26, 2020 Lifestyle

To say winters are long in Syracuse, New York, is like saying “the sun is hot.” Of course, we haven’t seen the sun in so long that you might need to use a different metaphor.

Have you heard the expression “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”? Our version is, “It’s not the cold, it’s the grey.”

Alaskans may have many words for snow, but Syracuse isn’t far behind. In the 28 years since I’ve lived here, I’ve learned to differentiate “lake effect snow” from a regular “snow event” (the snowflakes really do look different!).

Our proximity to Lake Ontario means that, to use the scientific meteorological parlance, we get dumped on. Our airport has a proud display in the lobby about how the snow removal is state of the art. Yes, Syracuse is the snowiest metropolitan region in the whole U.S.

And it wears on us.

What’s That Orb?

The dirty wash water cloud cover stays with us for roughly six months. Waking up to sunshine feels bizarre. I was recently watching the wonderful show Schidtt’s Creek and felt oddly confused. Something wasn’t quite right. Then I realized the show is set in a sunny location.

The first sunny day will find people who look like they were liberated from prison. The levity in public places is palpable. We feel like grizzlies on the first day after hibernation.

“What’s that bright yellow orb in the sky,” we ask. It’s a joke that’s always funny to Syracusians. We also enjoy “January has been the longest year!”

Hygge on Steroids

Knitting helps. Baking helps. But if you are going to get through a typical Syracuse winter, you need to have a well thought out strategy. You are probably familiar with the concept of hygge – the Scandinavian practice of making one’s living space super cozy.

Well, I’m taking hygge to a new level. This has been the longest winter ever. The combination of the grey and the shorter days is really tough on the psyche. My full spectrum light is working overtime.

Famed writer Anne Lammott has a beautiful practice to help her feel comforted when things are not going well. She may feel overwhelmed, stretched too thin, or just plain out of sorts. She lives in California, so I’ve adapted the practice for snow belt application.

She makes herself a “cruise ship,” gathering every single creature comfort she can think of. She makes herself a space on the couch where everything she needs is at her reach: pillows, magazines, coffee, stacks of books, and peanut M&Ms.

She luxuriates in her nest of comfort, reading, napping, snacking until she feels revived. Sometimes it takes the entire day. Her family knows not to disturb her. This is serious business.

My Cruise Ship

I’ve taken this concept and reworked it to suit me, and I suggest you do too, if you are in need of some mid-winter mood enhancement.

I have a lovely upholstered chair (also known as my perch where one of my Jack Russells likes to nest), an upholstered hassock, and a little table right beside me which used to be a piano bench. It’s covered with a lovely Marimekko cheerful green print cloth that a client gave me.

It’s the perfect size for the following: soy candle with subtle pine scent; knitting supplies; coffee mug; sparkly blue and green rock; book on Body Kindness (a must read!); mini full spectrum light; paper and pen for article ideas and other random thoughts; and small plant to remind me that there are growing things all around.

I read seed catalogs here, but I remind myself that it can sometimes snow on Mother’s Day. Various knitting projects live in the basket right beside the bench. The yarns are colorful and luxurious.

It’s a Time for Gratitude

A big fan of gratitude, I do try to see the upside. Lots of decluttering happens. Candle making happens. I still go out with the dogs, even if I need to wear a face mask for the windchill (another Syracuse specialty).

Inside projects help a lot. Weekly indoor tennis is a Godsent, also presenting me with the opportunity to shave my legs.

These winter trials do make Syracusians a particularly grateful bunch. When the snow finally leaves, and we see the first little green buds in the garden, you might conclude that we’ve collectively been into the local Finger Lakes wine. Citizens are giddy. We’re practically skipping through the streets. It’s amusing to see the transformation.

But until then, I’m checking my weather app to see when I can take my dog for a walk.

How do you deal with particularly long weather streaks – whether it be cold, heat, rainy days? Do you have a practice or activity that helps? What does your cozy place look like? Please share with our community!

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The Author

Nicole Christina, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and the host of the acclaimed podcast ZestfulAging (, which is heard in 89 countries around the world. Find out more about Nicole at

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