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The Anti-stress gift guide

Let’s Bring the Holiday Season Back to What’s Really Important—Creating Memories, Spending Time With Loved Ones and Enjoying the Moment

Article by Emily O'Brien

Photography by Poppy & Co. by Kelsey Huffer

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

What is it about the holiday season that makes us feel like we’re moving at lightning speed in a whirlwind of chaos and commotion? Why do we do this to ourselves year after year?

There’s a reason why Scandinavians are rated as the happiest people in the world, again and again. For the Danish, hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) makes winters enjoyable rather than something to simply get through. Hygge is the Danish art of creating joy and coziness in everyday moments, whatever the season or time of day. The idea is all about creating and incorporating feelings of happiness, friendliness and well-being into everyday life—finding the deeper meaning within ordinary moments.

“Hygge is the euphoric feeling when you are completely content in the present moment, when you can’t help but smile and let out a happy sigh,” says Alexandra Gove, creator and founder of Hygge Life, located in the Vail Valley. “Loved ones and good food and drinks are likely contributors, as are candlelight and music. It's the art of creating special moments out of daily routines and rituals, whether it's lighting a candle before you curl up in your reading nook, buying fresh flowers at the market every week, posting handwritten invitations for your backyard summer party or breaking out the good wine when your friends are over for dinner.”

Think fireplaces, cozy blankets, cups of hot cocoa. Alexandra says these wintry things are very hygge, but hygge should also trigger thoughts, intentions and feelings that happen year-round, such as campfires, picnic blankets and catching up with an old friend over an ice-cold beer. This practice can enhance our well-being. 

“We believe that hygge can actually help ease the anxiety and uneasiness of unsettling situations as well as the busyness and stresses of everyday life. We believe hygge provides comfort, contentment and coziness. It reminds us to slow down and to look for ways to take time to pause, be calm and practice self-care,” Alexandra says.

With this in mind, we look at ways to incorporate a deeper sense of being into the holiday season, reminding ourselves that the season is not just about gifts.

Remember you don’t have to do it all

Get a little help in the kitchen for your holiday meal. It’s OK, really! If cooking feels more overwhelming than exciting, ditch it. Pick up pre-made meals or dine out at Hotel Boulderado, Centro Mexican Kitchen, Jill’s Restaurant at St. Julien Hotel or The Kitchen.

Pick up local author Allyson Reedy’s latest cookbook 50 Things To Bake Before You Die and whip up some sweet treats in the kitchen with your children. Then relish the moment when they ask to do it again. If they’re old enough, let them give the second round a go on their own. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Set the tone at home

Spend the evening by candlelight or sit by a roaring fire. Carve out an hour to read a book or sip on tea or pinot noir.

Keep a pair of warm socks or slippers by your bed. Toss a soft, thick blanket across your couch. Make being cozy a priority. 

If you’re looking for additional ways to embrace the season, Alexandra suggests adding winter textures like wool and heavy-weighted throws and adding a winter fruit bowl to your kitchen counter to add color and vibrancy to the room.

Help the kids make the most out of the holiday season

Alexandra says the key to creating a hyggelig atmosphere with children is by being present and appreciating the little things. She suggests spending an hour or two cooking pancakes in the morning together or to plan a hygge movie night where you pile the living room floor with pillows and hang twinkle lights.

Build memories through experiences rather than gifts. Spend the day hitting the slopes at Eldora or strap on your hiking boots for a snowy hike with a backpack containing a blanket and thermos of hot chocolate. 

Make and break bread together. Sign up for Rebel Bread's "Camp Bread: Sourdough at Home," which guides you through the entire bread-making process over 7 days.

Give your kids the opportunity to create while you catch up with a friend or take a moment for yourself. Ideal for ages 5-12, kids can make either a snow-filled winter wonderland or a small stuffie at Tinker Art Studio’s Winter Workshops; Dec 8th & 9th.

One of the best ways to build new memories is by trying something new. Start small by picking up several flavors of Van Leeuwen’s ice cream for a family taste-testing session. We suggest large spoonfuls of Honeycomb, Earl Grey Tea and Marionberry Cheesecake. 

Be mindful 

Wrapping gifts doesn’t have to be a wasteful experience. Rather than store-bought wrapping paper, which isn’t recyclable, opt for butcher paper and pretty twine. Top with a fresh clipping from your tree or a sucker. If little ones are around, invite them to draw on it with markers, making it a truly one-of-a-kind present. 

Treat yourself

Do you know how they say that sometimes the best things come in small packages? Walk or bike down to Spruce or Amante and pick up a latte and mouthwatering pastries. Fresh flowers are my trigger to stop and appreciate life. Head over to Lucky’s or Ideal Market for a colorful bouquet. Divvy them up to create little “stops” throughout your home—by your bedside, in your kitchen, at the dining table and more. 

Is there a hobby you’ve lost track of like reading, knitting or painting? Have you lost sight of it now that the world has opened up again? Consider carving out a few minutes each day or every weekend for it. 

Drop someone a note

If the thought of writing a lengthy Christmas letter this year makes you want to cringe, then don’t! Send a quick “thinking of you” text or pick up a stack of stationary or postcards. It’s always nice to receive mail and the actual amount of writing doesn’t matter. It’s more about the fact that you’ve set aside time to say hello.

Local experiences 

Try gifting experiences to those you love, or better yet, plan an experience together. Take advantage of all the amazing local offerings like the Boulder Ballet, dinner at Frasca or a staycation at St. Julien. Head out of town a few hours away and experience all the hot springs our state has to offer. Spend time at a spa in Manitou Springs, head over to Surf Hotel for live music in Buena Vista or stay at Hotel Jerome or Belly Up in Aspen. Take your family to the Nutcracker or one of our many impressive museums.


Give thoughtfully

When you match the right store with the right person, it can be hard to go wrong. This season, do not underestimate the power of giving a gift card. It saves you time, supports local businesses and lets the recipient choose exactly what they want. Wrap it well and include a thoughtful note. We promise you can’t go wrong with this pick. Here are some of our favorite places.