Inside: How Swedes make spending time with family real quality time — full of cozy everyday traditions and intentional living.
My husband and I were sitting in a little cafe in a small seaside town in Sweden last summer. Our son was with his Swedish Grandparents for a day of fun while we did an excursion to town.
At the table next to us, was a mom and daughter having Fika together. Fika is the Swedish tradition of a coffee break, yet it is so much more than a coffee break:
A Fika is taking a moment to pause and connect or reflect. To enjoy the moment and savor the good and simple things in life.
During a lull in our conversation, I overheard the mother ask her young daughter what she wanted to do on their holiday. The daughter replies as she savored every ounce of hot chocolate, “eat ice cream, swim, and have Fika”.
Isn’t that the wish of all children on a seaside holiday? But how cozy is it to sit, mother and daughter together, and have a moment to connect?
I saw variations of this cozy scene everywhere we went. Parents sitting with kids in a cozy circle drinking a warm drink. Sharing an ice cream. At cafes, on the rocks at the beach, on the little patios of the cabins in this seaside town. Outdoor cafes even had fleece blankets on the chairs for cozy moments just like this.
When you think about how simple Fika really is, suddenly, spending time with friends and family becomes easier and cozier. It isn’t something you have to put aside a large amount of time to schedule or prep, it doesn’t take up a whole evening and it isn’t a whole meal — you can make it special, but it doesn’t have to be complicated to get together.
Fika is taking a moment to enjoy each other and the simple and good things in life.
My son who was born and is growing up here in the U.S. has wholeheartedly adopted this tradition. Introduced to Fika by his grandparents, to him Fika means something sweet to eat and cozy family togetherness.
This simple, yet cozy hospitality is a hallmark of Swedish living. Perhaps it is because so much of the year is dark and cold that as a culture they sought out ways to be cozy and spend time together as a family.
Swedish families are most often two-parent working households, with all of the familiar stresses and pressures of family life. Between after school activities and work pressures, most Swedes feel lucky to get a few dinners together as a family per week. That resonates with me and our life in the states.
So, it isn’t that Swedes do family time more often or even better, it’s that they are intentional about it — and intentional about making it cozy and warm.
And while Fika is very much a part of this cozy family time, it isn’t the only part.
The Balanced Life: Lagom
To be able to truly understand Fika, you must first understand Lagom. Lagom is a term that means — not too little and not too much, just enough or just the right amount. This is a pretty foreign concept in the American drive for everything bigger and better.
It is a difficult term to define and you would probably get a different definition from every Swede you asked, but my experience of the word is that it is usually used to describe contentment with things as they are.
As in, yes we could have eaten more of that delicious food, but I had just the right amount and I am content.
Or, we could have done something much more exciting on New Year’s Eve night — but really, it was just right and I feel good about it.
Lagom is the opposite of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out.) It is appreciating and being grateful for what you have, for enjoying life for what it is in the moment right now.
When you boil it down, it seems like Lagom is about balance and being intentional. Knowing when you have had enough and feeling contentment with it.
Spending time with family doesn’t always have to be big adventures with all the prep work that comes with it — it can be simple, it can be Lagom.
The Cozy Life: Mysigt
Like the Danish word Hygge, which has received a lot of attention, the Swedish word Mysigt has a similar meaning. It doesn’t directly translate to English — if you pop it into Google translate you’ll get the word cozy. Most literally Mysigt means “to smile with comfort, to be cozy.”
If something is Mys in Swedish it is warm, cozy, and comfortable. A feeling of Mys is a feeling of relaxing and pleasant. A mysigt time is a time to kick back, have good food, to rejuvenate.
Lagom and Mysigt Family Time
You can see how Fika, Lagom, and Mysigt all give an insight into how Swedes have an appreciation for the everyday beauty and slowing down to enjoy the good parts of life.
The same applies to family life and family time together. Swedes make it a priority to be cozy together. To have cozy time with the whole family, or like the mother and daughter in the cafe to have one on one time to be together and enjoy small moments.
Instead of thinking about family time as one more thing to do or constantly coming up with bigger and better ideas, try thinking about making family time slower, simpler, and more intentional.
3 Ways to Have Cozy, Simple, and Meaningful Family Time
Fika: Slow Down with a Warm Drink
You can easily incorporate Fika into your daily life.
- Pick a time of day and start a tradition of a warm-drink break. Have a basket of books by the kitchen table and bring out the books so you have a moment to sip and savor.
- Kids in school? Start a tea time after school and create a moment to pause in the day.
- Pack a thermos of hot chocolate for your kid’s soccer game on the weekend or on your family hike. Find a spot on some rocks or on a bench and have a family hot chocolate date.
- Take one of your kids to a cafe and have a cozy conversation, just the two of you.
Technically, you can take this into the warm months as well and share a cold drink. Fika can be with lemonade or even ice-cream!
Lillördag: Little Saturday
Little Saturday is the Swedish nickname for Wednesday and started as an extra day to go out to the clubs, but in a lighter way than on Saturday. Similar to our idea of “hump day” it’s the idea of celebrating the mid-way point to the work-week.
With all of our crazy schedules, Wednesday truly is a reason to celebrate! Here are some ways to incorporate a mid-week family time in the form of little Saturday.
- Make it your night to get take-out.
- Go out to dinner and skip the Friday night crowds.
- Have snack dinners — kid-friendly charcuterie boards are our favorite!
- Have a mini-game night — make a tray or basket with quick, but fun games and bring it out mid-week for a fun night.
Fredagsmys: Cozy Friday
Cozy Friday (or literally Friday coziness) in Sweden is about getting comfortable and staying-in on Friday.
Surprisingly, the Swedes eat tacos or other Tex-Mex inspired dishes and less surprisingly, light candles and curl- up on the sofa and play games or watch movies together.
This is similar to our concepts of Friday family movie night or Taco Tuesday all mashed into one and made into a verb!
Fredagsmys can be with just your family or with kids inviting their friends over or you inviting families over. The nice thing about this is that it is not a big event or a big to-do. It is tacos and friends.
Easy hospitality — but so meaningful. Inviting someone over for a cozy Friday is like inviting them into your real homelife for a night — not a best foot forward, house perfect, dinner party — just joining in for a simple cozy Friday night, tacos included.
Cozy, Simple, and Meaningful
Sometimes all you need is to name something as a tradition, it can become something to look forward too and something intentional.
The thing that strikes me about these traditions is that they are not reserved for special occasions and they are not big events — they are everyday things. Simple every day or every-week activities that foster coziness and family togetherness.
And that simplicity, yet intentionality is something we could all use a little more of in our lives and will help us spending a little more quality time together.
Looking for holiday coziness? Check out this: Hygge Stocking Stuffers for Kids: Books, Chocolate, and Cozy