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Certain groups embrace hygge and friluftsliv

By John McCracken

GREEN BAY – To Joy Bashara, there’s no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothes.

The retired teacher and Green Bay resident is the president of the city’s local Sons of Norway chapter, Grønnvik 632.

In recent years, the Scandiavian practice of hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) boomed in popularity and was awarded the 2016 word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries.

The practice is rooted in creating coziness and embracing the cold.

Notoriously associated with Danish traditions and customs, Bashara said acknowledgement should not solely be given to the Danes.

“Norwegians also take credit for hygge,” she said.

While hygge promotes gathering together and finding inner comfort, a separate Norse tradition offers an outward appreciation.

Friluftsliv (pronounced “free-loofts-liv”), loosely translates to outdoor life and is a mindset that doesn’t adhere to seasonality.

“You need to embrace winter, which is what, as a culture (Norwegians) were forced to do,” Bashara said.

The local lodge is a division of the international fraternal organization headquartered in Minneapolis and focuses on heritage, community and history.

Green Bay’s lodge has about 60 members who vary in age and experience, but you don’t need to be Norwegian to participate.

Norse immigrants began arriving in Green Bay as skilled laborers in the mid 1800’s as a wave of migrants sought new opportunities in the United States following the economic fallout of the famines in Europe and Scandivian countries.

The Midwest has the highest concentration of Norse immigrants in the nation, with Wisconsin having the second highest total.

“We have a lot of different people, some Swedish, many Norwegians, some Danish, some Finnish,” Bashara said.

She said some members find comfort in lighter outdoor recreation, such as hiking, and the more athletic folks cross country ski, or go winter camping.

Chris Pedretti, business operation section chief for the Wisconsin DNR, said winter camping this season is up drastically.

“Everybody looks at the outdoors as a safe place to escape right now,” Pedretti said.

Though data isn’t available for December due to COVID-19 constraints, Pedretti said there were 2,761 nights camped in November throughout the state.

This is more than double the 931 nights camped during the same time frame in 2019.

“When we got camping open again, we saw an increase every month, double-digit increases,” Pedretti said.

Though some folks go full friluftsliv and embrace the colder weather, winter camping is a small sliver compared to the summer month of July 2020, which had nearly 54,000 nights camped.

Brown County does not have state parks that allow for winter camping, but Pedretti said parks in neighboring counties have been popular this season.

“Door County is still a winter destination, as well as High Cliff State Park for camping,” he said.

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