I like to tell people I was made in a warmer climate. California-girl raised in New York: winter in my memory is an eternal wasteland spent shivering by indoor heaters and staring wanly out at the bleakness outside for about six months straight while struggling to stave off seasonal depression. It wasn’t until I married my New Hampshire husband and moved to Boston that I discovered five secrets to surviving winter in New England. Did I say survive? What about thrive? They are as follows!
Secret #1) Invest in Down
If you’re like me you own any number of coats comprised of cotton, wool, and cold-resistant synthetic materials. THESE DO NOT COUNT. They may look warm, or sound warm, (wool, after-all, starts with a reassuring “w,” amIright?) but for the perpetually cold and the New England onslaught of sub-freezing temperatures they are NOT warm ENOUGH. You need down. Several inches of it. Good to -20°F and reaching your knees. The key here is not just that you are warm, but that you are SO warm you can step outside and not even notice the change in temperature. You’re so warm the FEAR of being cold is completely irradiated. Miss your bus and stuck on the side of the road? Tossed into a snow ditch and lost to the world for 5 hours? You’re SNUG AS A BUG IN A LITTLE DOWN RUG!
Bonus points: A down coat with a down hood and pockets—I’ve found I don’t even need to bring (read: remember to bring) a scarf, hat, or gloves because the down hood and down pockets keep my extremities encased in warmness. Also consider investing in Canadian-made knee-high, water-wicking snow boots. (I’ve had great success with these from Pajar. Black is always fashionable!) Double-bonus points: a fluffy down comforter for your nightly delight!
Secret #2) Don’t Put Away Your Christmas/Winter Decorations
Let’s be honest: November is still Fall. You have a lingering summer tan, the occasional leafy tree, and the bustle of holiday preparation is carrying you through. The almost-Thanksgiving through post-New Years season is such a rush of holiday adrenaline you might actually be enjoying the cold. Until January.
Mid-January hits and all the fun is over. I made the mistake one year of bringing our my spring decorations on a hot day in February: THREE MONTHS of COLD, SNOWY, SLEETY MUD TOO EARLY!
So what’s the secret? LEAVE YOUR WINTER DECORATIONS UP! Don’t box up the festive. Leave the evergreen branches out! Your winter plates. Red bows and napkins. Plaid blankets. Maybe de-Christmas a bit in mid-late January (but then again I know people who leave up their trees all year long). Think medieval yule-log and breath it into your house. Bring in pine-cones from outside and make table-runners and window decorations. Cut out paper snowflakes. DIY. Do what you gotta do to make your house festively WINTER for the long months of… actually winter. (Read: in New England, through most of April.)
Secret #3) Take Up a Winter Sport
I credit this tip to my husband. Winter in his childhood is a season of hallowed and happy memories because winter meant perpetual romps through snowy forests and competitive X-Country Skiing. I did neither of these things. I stayed inside till I looked like a pale, atrophied ghost of sadness.
You NEED to get outside. Vitamin D. General back to nature-ness. Healthy activity. Ward off the stir-crazyness. So many good reasons.
The easiest activity is obviously to just start walking outside (see aforementioned investment in good boots and coat). Honestly this doesn’t appeal very much to me. Other options include skiing (if you gots the monies), X-Country Skiing (if you has the lands), or ice-skating. I’ve chosen ice-skating. Even if I only get out to skate twice a winter that’s about a 200% improvement on not going out at all.
Secret #4) Take a Vacation Between February & April
Two years ago we took a real, 10 day, out-of-state vacation in July. TERRIBLE IDEA. Do you know when New England is really nice? In JULY. New England summers are sublime. Falls are fantastic. Spring is surprisingly short but very nice. WINTER IS SIX MONTHS. When should you go on vacation? WHEN IT’S AN ARCTIC WASTELAND OUTSIDE.
Repeat after me: I will not go AWAY on vacation during the nicest months in New England.
If you’re going to GO somewhere: go in February-April. A trip during these months not only breaks up the long, cold monotony but also gives you something to look forward to and a much-needed vitamin D boost.
Why not earlier in the year? Well, like I’ve said, the holidays carry you through till January. January is the real beginning of winter, it’s the buckle-down-and-stay warm month. No point skipping out. It is also historically the most likely month to have storms so best to avoid for canceled flights. Honestly, February goes by pretty fast but it’s your call. I recommend March or April for a vacation. March because it’s the last official month of winter. April because, in the words of T.S. Elliot,
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
April gives you all hope and no fulfillment. It’s a tease of a month. Cruel and heartless. It’s snowed three times this past April. Leave if at all possible.
Secret #5) Embrace the Dutch concept of Hygge
Do you know what the best part of it being cold outside is? the WARMNESS inside. Hygge (“hue-ga”) means coziness in Dutch, but for the Dutch “hygge” coziness transcends physical sensations and incorporates the soul. It’s tapping into what makes winter togetherness cozy and embracing it fully. The hot-cocoa after the snowy-romp, the fire on the hearth while it snows outside, the flannel-blanket-cuddling with a loved one while the earth outside is swathed in white. Hygge gets the Dutch through winter and it can get you through to!
Tips? Invest in a few jars of your favorite hot-cocoa mix. Wear flannel pajamas and have plaid throws on your couch. Eat dinner by candle-light. Have people over and feast on soup and french bread. Read over-sized books. Marathon-watch a TV series. Better yet? Watch movies WHILE drinking hot-cocoa WHILE wrapped in a plaid blanket in your flannel pjs WHILE drinking MORE hot-cocoa while snuggling somebody you love who is ALSO drinking hot cocoa. You get the idea.
Bring our your bright copper kettle on and pull our your warm woolen mittens. Fluffy slippers. Candles. Polar-bear mugs and penguin plates. Soups. Stews. Tea. & Company.
Did I mention CHOCOLATE?
And don’t let it up for four months. Worried about putting on pounds? SEE THE BEARS. You are trying to get through WINTER without all the sleeping. No guilt! The extra layer will not only keep you warm: if it’s from chocolate it’s worth its weight in happiness.
And there you have it. 5 Secrets for Surviving a New England Winter! NOW GO GET COMFY!