Oh, the post-Christmas doldrums. I used to think they weren’t avoidable. I would spend the weeks after New Years busying myself so I didn’t have to feel my sadness. And while I love the New Year with its shiny possibilities and opportunity for a new start, the high of a fresh January would only last so long. It makes sense to feel desolate after Christmas, especially after the intentionality of Advent. For many of us, the waiting of Advent ends with a return to a sense of sameness that can feel disappointing. We link our hearts to Israel, to the shepherds, or to Mary, and we faithfully walk into the darkest season, knowing that at the end, we will celebrate our faith in Christ’s coming. But often, without meaning to, we also attach our hopes and prayers for the deliverance of our own from circumstances that may or may not change. Christmas comes, and our child is still sick, or we still face surgery, and debt is still overwhelming. Or perhaps our circumstances are peaceful, but the end of Advent has us feeling uprooted and without grounding. What, then, when the sky is still dark, the chill is still impending, and the celebration of Light has come and gone?

The good news is that we can take what we need from the Christmas season and make it a new thing that carries us through January and February. Learning about the Danish practice of winter coziness called hygge has been transformational for my winter well-being. If the word hygge is unfamiliar, I highly recommend some quick Google navigation around it, as the practice’s popularity has skyrocketed over the last few years! But boiled down to the simplest definition, hygge is the mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality that encourages feelings of wellness and contentment. The idea is that you embrace the cold and the dark by hunkering down with lots of warm layers, soft lighting, warm foods, and a slower pace of life. It seems like such an obvious concept, but I love the permission it gives to live into the brilliance of seasonality. God created the four seasons to be lived differently, but somehow I have always mistaken that to mean “embrace these seasons, but keep your energy up through all of them equally.” I’m so thankful that God indeed asks us to rest. But rest and hygge alone don’t satisfy my soul’s sense of loss after Christmas and New Years have passed.

And so, I’m determined to take the parts of Advent that feel the most enriching, and the practice of hygge in its entirety, and morph the two into a sort of wintering spirituality or soul-care. It sounds simple, and it is, really, but it is highly intentional. I commit to fewer things on my calendar and notice how my soul rests when I have more time for reading, writing, and restful play with my children. I meditate on the places in scripture where God encourages rest for our weary souls and all the places that talk about the contrast of light and dark. I eat seasonally- lots of root veggies!- and keep my feeders filled for the birds. And I go out in the cold to feel it and to be present to how much more lovely the few bits of natural color are when shown against winter’s gray. The holly berry, the green of the firs and the pines, the red feathers of the cardinal.

Soon enough, Lent will be upon us, and daffodils will show their greens while we anxiously chide them that the ground is still too frozen. Soon I will shift from teaching my preschoolers about hibernation to talking about bulbs and butterflies. But only when it’s time. Soon I will welcome the way the earth smells when the sun warms it and wake up on Saturday mornings to the sound of lawnmowers. But not until I have completed this second Advent. Not until my soul has rested in God’s permission for stillness. Not until I have finished holding out the things that I still hope God fulfills with the kind of raw honesty that somehow feels easier in the winter than at any other time of the year.

Happy wintering. Happy second Advent, Advent postscript, or whatever idea of continued waiting brings rightness to your heart. We will arrive at spring in good time.