Cut down your own Maine Christmas tree, to bring seasonal good cheer indoors. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

If you’ve never thought much about coziness, now might be the time to start.

As the long, dark winter approaches and the pandemic puts a damper on holiday gatherings, we’ll all be spending a lot of time in our own homes. So why not make them as cozy, warm and inviting as possible?

We’re not talking about major renovations, just little things that can make a difference. Since it’s the holiday season, bringing in a fresh-cut Christmas tree or making a holiday wreath can be part of it. But we can also steal some ideas from our Danish friends – who know something about long, dark winters – and their coziness philosophy called hygge. Blankets, pillows and rugs can help too.

Here are a few ideas and resources to help you unleash your inner coziness this year.

The spirit of the season can be found in a Maine Christmas tree. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

SMELLS LIKE HOME

This time of year, the most inviting thing about home for a lot of people is the smell of a fresh Christmas tree. We all have more time on our hands, so why not get the freshest possible tree – full of fresh scent – by cutting one down yourself at a Maine tree farm? The website of the Maine Christmas Tree Association lists more than 45 choose-and-cut farms all over Maine, with addresses and information on each. You can plug in your zip code and find farms within a 30-mile radius. The South Portland zip code yields listings for farms in Kennebunkport, Raymond, Scarborough, Dayton, Wells, Lewiston, North Yarmouth, Kennebunk, Windham, Cape Elizabeth, Durham and Standish.

It’s a good idea to check on what each farm offers, their hours and any COVID-19 restrictions. Tree cutting is an outdoor activity and farms are big enough so that you don’t have to get too close to anyone. Once you have the tree in your home, thinking about the fact that it was farm-raised right here in Maine will surely make you feel a little more cozy. To find a tree farm near you, go to mainechristmastree.com. 

CAN YOU SAY HYGGE?

First of all, it’s pronounced hue-guh, and to the Danish it basically means “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people” according to the VisitDenmark website. Winter and Christmas are high seasons for hygge in Denmark, because that country, like Maine, is known for long, dark winters. The term actually comes from an old Norwegian word. It first appeared in Danish writings at the end of the 18th century and the philosophy has been embraced by Danes ever since. Hygge has become something of lifestyle phenomenon, so it’s easy to find hygge tips on blogs and websites.

If you’re trying to keep hygge in mind, keep a basket of blankets on hand. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Lighting candles all over your home can be part of living the hygge life, to bring warmth and light. Taking time to enjoy warm drinks like mulled wine or hot cider fit in with hygge as well. Some hygge blogs and sites say you can create a cozy atmosphere at home with a basket of slippers, so as you enter the house you put something warm and cozy on your feet. Similarly, you could keep a basket of blankets on hand so everyone in the house can grab one when they need to be wrapped in warmth. Also layering blankets or sheepskin on furniture makes pieces more inviting and comfortable. For more hygge-inspired ideas, go to hyggelife.com or hyggehouse.com.

To find locally made versions of these cozy items, head to the Shaker Virtual Christmas Fair at maineshakers.com/shop, where there are handmade candles, quilts and more on sale for pre-order and contactless pickup at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester through Saturday. Items can also be shipped worldwide.

CIRCLE OF LOVE

Wreaths, any time of year, look inviting and cozy. But at the holidays even more so. You might also get a warm feeling from making your own wreath this year, maybe going out and collecting evergreen branches yourself. Or you can buy branches – along with wire and other wreath-making equipment – at local garden stores and nurseries. If you’ve never made a wreath before, the University of Maine Cooperative extension has step-by-step instructions online for making them with balsam fir. The instructions tell you how many “tips” or ends of branches you need for various sizes, and how to bundle them together before assembling the bundles on to the wire structure of the wreath. The instructions include 11 specific illustrations of the various steps, plus a video on how to sustainably harvest balsam fir tips. See the instructions at extension.umaine.edu/publications.

Bring in some winterberry from outside, before the birds eat it all, to make your home warm and inviting. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

FOUND COZINESS

You don’t actually have to make anything to bring seasonal warmth into your house, you can just go out and find it. Tom Atwell, author of the Maine Gardener column in the Maine Sunday Telegram, suggests scouring your yard or nearby woods and keeping and open mind about what might work as decor. Bring in a bunch of pine cones and put them in boxes or baskets around the house, or on the mantle or coffee table. Look for colorful plants, like branches of winterberry. They add gorgeous, warm, red color to any place you want to put them, whether in a vase or on a windowsill. Birch branches, with their wintery whiteness, would be a nice accent in a dark room. And of course evergreen branches can be placed just about anywhere. For more ideas on how to scour your yard for decorations, read Atwell’s Nov. 1 column at pressherald.com.

TIPS FROM THE PROS

Interior designers make their living getting rooms to feel and a look a certain way, including cozy and welcoming. Vanessa Helmick of Fiore Home in Portland suggests that in a darker room you can place a decorative, oversized mirror near a window to provide more natural light. She also says a beautiful piece of art – a print maybe – can help. Bringing in flowers or driftwood you find outside can also create a “sanctuary” effect, she says.

One of America’s best-known home experts spends at least part of the year in Maine, at her house in Seal Harbor. Martha Stewart offers a lot of ideas on her website about how to create a holiday feeling in your house from interior designers and others. Changing up your throw pillows for cozier, warm ones made of wool, for instance, is one idea. Another is to use soft, ambient lighting, maybe from a string of lights or candles, instead of harsh, high-watt bulbs. For more holiday season decorating ideas, go to MarthaStewart.com.

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