Hygge in Ketchikan, Alaska

morning snow back in December
Denmark lies at the same latitude as Southeast Alaska. We have the same darkness, and probably some of the same cold winter weather. This is the first time in five years I'm spending the winter in Ketchikan, and I have to say it feels nice. Most people in the world probably wouldn't like spending a winter in Alaska—even in relatively balmy Ketchikan. I, however, have always felt that it was very comfortable here during the dark season, which brings me to the concept of "hygge."

I recently learned about the Danish concept of "hygge," which appears to be a term used in wintertime to describe a sense of coziness and comfort. Like other foreign words for which English has no equivalent, hygge likely encapsulates something that some of us Anglophones may have experienced all the time, but simply never knew how to capture in a single word. I think I might have always had hygge: Winter darkness makes everything feel closer and cozier for me on some level, as if everything becomes calmer and more low-key.

This attempt to define hygge says it has to do with people's behavior to each other—not quite what I originally imagined, but still applicable, perhaps. Ketchikan does seem like a closer, tighter-knit community in winter, but this likely has more to do with the population drop-off after the cruise ships leave—not the winter season per se.

In any case, winter in Ketchikan can be a little chilly and over-dark, but I still feel there's a sense of coziness and camaraderie that surrounds the community during these months. Perhaps hygge has been in Alaska all along, even though we don't have a word for it.

Note: We haven't had much if any snow here since the picture above was taken, but we might get some again this weekend.

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