If You Hate Winter – You Might Need To Read This



Ho, ho, ho!!! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! And Welcome to Winter!

Does anyone know why Santa says ho, ho, ho? (keep it clean please) ;]

Maybe, he’s just blowing warm air into his hands, ’cause Santa’s north pole winter home is just a tad chilly this time of year. Ya know?

And very dark.

Santas winter home

Oh, we desperately want to believe that Santa’s North Pole abode/workshop is a cozy chalet nestled between mountain ranges. Softened with fresh, fluffy snow-covered evergreens, Mrs. Claus is making the most fragrant fruitcakes and the elves are getting drunk on eggnog.


After-all, the jolliest man in the world, must be living in the world’s most beautiful place for Christmas.


But then… Santa is never home for Christmas, is he?

hmmm… Can’t say I blame him.


Mike Horn


Well, we all know that it’s just a snow globe paper weight fantasy. The north pole for several months out of the year looks like this–most inhospitable, to say the least.

These two meshuggenehs  (definition here) in the photo above went on an expedition to the north pole–in the winter, quite a while back. One of them nearly lost half of his nose!


Okay Laurel. That’s a nice disgusting factoid to take in while I’m trying to figure out how to look happy about the hideous sweater my sister-in-law got for me. Do you have a point?


I’m sorry. I know that you’re exhausted and that your fat jeans are tight and your in-laws are…

Take a deep breath and let’s put this into a little perspective. Okay?

And please bear with me here.

I’m an Aquarius and yes, we’re a little weird. (except to other Aquarians- lol).

But I have always had a fascination with our earth and the differences of light, especially in the far reaches.

That made me think recently, in a kind of masochistic way as I hate winter. I hate the cold. And I’m not particularly fond of the short days.

“Where is the most northern place on earth that people live?”

Well… I found it and then I found two other places that are even further north but people are only there for scientific purposes for the most part.

The very most northern place is way, way, way up at the tippy top of Canada and it is called ALERT.

A fitting name for a place that hasn’t seen the sun since October 14th and won’t see it again until February 27th 2017. Then, from April 4th through September 4th, the sun never sets!

If this sort of thing interests you, you can find the tables, plus weather and all sorts of interesting info here.

What fascinates (or rather disturbs) me is us Americans.

We’re awful.

Just bloody awful and phenomenally spoiled!

We complain when it dips below freezing. Oh, that damned POLAR VORTEX. (that suddenly appeared for the first time three years ago?). Just stay up in the poles where you belong! haha. We complain when the sun sets at 4:30. We’re damned lucky to see the sun at all!


But here’s something that is even more fascinating.


And that is just because the sun doesn’t come up, over the horizon in the Arctic circle, doesn’t mean that it’s pitch black the entire day.

This of course, varies widely depending on how deep one is in the arctic circle. It’s a very big circle.

In addition, there’s a myth out there, that people who live in these remote, dark frozen areas are a bunch of depressed alcoholics.

Nothing could be further from the truth according to articles I’ve read.

As a matter of fact, people in the northern areas of Norway for instance, actually look forward to winter.

And as someone who abhors winter in a place several thousand miles south, from these far reaches, I need to understand why that is so.


winter sky - polar night

Oh wow! This polar night thing is pretty damned cool!


The next four images are stills taken from a short and exquisitely photographed video by Christian Uhlig.

I promise that if you are feeling any stress at all… that it will quickly vanish.

You can access Christian’s Video Here.

(Alas, reading this post 2.5 years later, it appears to have been taken down. Bummer!)



Svalbard winter


Svalbard Winter Northern Lights


Why, the deep arctic is not black at all, in the dead of winter! It’s full of the most amazing colors and light;

it is unspeakably beautiful!

The second further most place with a name is a place called Nord Greenland. There’s really nothing there.

But the third most northern place is a real town with hotels. (well, maybe two), a hospital and a university!

It is a place called Longyearbyen.

Longyearbyen is on the Svalbard Archipelago, in between the top of Norway and the north pole. It has a permanent population of about 2,100. And most of the natives love it there!


Here is a map of the arctic region. We’re focusing today on northern Norway and Svalbard.

The polar night as it is known is almost as long as that of Alert’s.

Another view of the earth with Svalbard Archipelago just to the east of Greenland

And yes, Longyearbyen is very cold, but it is not even close to being the coldest place on earth. In fact, considering that it is at the 78.2232° N latitude, it’s relatively mild.

The gulf stream is what helps to moderate the temperatures to some extent.

But still, because of the permafrost, there is no vegetation except for short grass, even during the long, long summer days.

Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway during the polar night

At this time of year, in Longyearbyen there is not so much as a drop of twilight. And there will be no twilight until January 30, 2017. From then on, the twilight time and strength will increase rapidly until the sun peaks up behind the mountains maybe in March, but technically, it will be above the horizon mid- February.

My sister Holly (who loves Christmas as much as I do if not more) and I had a fun convo about Longyearbyen the other night.

And if you think that all there is to do is try to stay warm and keep from getting mauled by a Polar Bear, that would not be true. (yes, the natives walk around with rifles, because the bears are a real threat!)

Here are some other winter activities to enjoy in Longyearbyen and Svalbard.


Winter activities in Longyearbyen, Svalbard NorwayVisit Svalbard

They ride bikes? In the middle of winter? Really?

Please remember, that not only is it freezing and snowy, where this bike is located, it would be pitch-black. That is, unless the moon was out in full-blast and/or there was a great show of the northern lights.


Colorful homes in Longyearbyen-Svalbard Global Seed Vault/Peter Vermeij


But lets move further down to the top of mainland Norway and there we can find the larger coastal city of Tromso at 69.6492° N Latitude with a population of about 72,000.



Winter - mid-day Tromso Norway


Tromso at twilight is all we’re going to get in the winter months of northern Norway.


Tromso still has a couple months where the sun does not rise above the horizon, but they never go 24 hours without some light in the sky. Even on the shortest day of the year, they get about 4.5 hours of twilight.


Tromso International Film Festival Photo: Ingun A. Maehlum

Tromso International Film Festival Photo: Ingun A. Maehlum

An outdoor film festival? (and I think it might be snowing too, looking at the lights!)

Half Marathon held in early January in Tromso.

These are humans, right? haha.


This gives all new meaning to a “shack on the beach.”

What happens when you need to borrow a cup of sugar?


Snow Addiction

The return of the sun and some of Tromso’s colorful homes.

An arctic night sky. (original source unknown)


Two Excellent Blogs About Living In the Arctic are here and here.

I realize that this was a little departure from the usual, but after-all, our homes are also about where they are located.

And it’s Christmas!

I don’t know if I could live in such a place, but it certainly looks like a wonderful place to visit. And yes, in the winter. Before it gets crowded with tourists. ;]

However, please don’t ask me to watch a movie outdoors in below freezing temps!

Hope everyone is having a beautiful, warm, holiday!





It was a rough week in the world. I’d like to dedicate this post to the fallen angels and injured in Berlin. This madness must end!


5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Dolores - June 11, 2017 - 8:10 AM

    How did I miss this wonderful blog entry?? Maybe because I had 14 people for dinner on Christmas and no time for myself 🙂
    Thank you! Since I love the cold, I wished that I could enjoy such wonderful experience in person..ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 11, 2017 - 8:24 AM

      Yeah… it’s a busy time for a lot of people. I love this post too. I watched that video about thirty times. It’s so beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Marisa - January 2, 2017 - 9:33 PM

    Thank you, Thank You for these images and sharing the wonderful talent of Christian Uhlig. Wow. Indeed, this post is a beautiful gift. I can’t wait to watch all his videos in this series.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - January 2, 2017 - 9:53 PM

      Hi Marisa,

      I know. I can’t imagine what it takes to put one of these videos together. It must take hours and hours. Thanks for stopping by!ReplyCancel

  • Leesa - December 26, 2016 - 1:54 PM

    This article and the video just took my breath away. How lovely! Winter has it’s own subtle beauty that people forget about. Thanks for writing this post and reminding me of how wonderful it all is!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 26, 2016 - 2:05 PM

      Hi Leesa,

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! Happy Holidays!ReplyCancel

  • Linda - December 26, 2016 - 11:46 AM

    BRAVO!!!! BRAVO!!!! BRAVO!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Susie - December 26, 2016 - 10:13 AM

    I live in the “Iceboat Center of the World”–Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Iceboating is sailing on ice, though iceboats are not exactly like sailboats. Find out more on iceboat.org.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 26, 2016 - 1:54 PM

      Hi Susie,

      Thanks so much for sharing that! I lived in WI for 5 years in my mid teens (Madison) and then again in my early 20’s. (Milwaukee). But I had never heard of iceboating. Looks like a lot of fun!ReplyCancel

  • sally - December 26, 2016 - 7:20 AM

    Laurel, I just love you. Your posts are always eagerly awaited,read and saved. You are generous of heart to share your knowledge and your thoughts–and delightful always!

    Grateful to you for this post on Winter. I’m a December baby and love the lights and the clean-washed look of December…anticipating the holidays and the joys of the season.

    But winter! and bare branches and shivers…it freezes my heart and shrinks my soul….

    The stories and the beautiful pictures have inspired me to use new thought on this…

    Best wishes to you always for a very happy and prosperous New Year. You are a Treasure!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 26, 2016 - 1:53 PM

      Hi Sally,

      I’m in complete agreement with you. Although there certainly can be an ethereal beauty when there’s a wet, fluffy snow on the bare trees, it quickly falls off, then gets covered with dirt (at least here).

      The oft-mentioned “snirt.”

      Any wind around and it’s a stinging, painful sensation. A hat and gloves are a must.

      Thanks so much for your kind words and all the best to you for the new year as well!ReplyCancel

  • bfish - December 26, 2016 - 6:30 AM

    Hi Laurel — This was a fascinating look at a part of the world I do not long to visit — but it is certainly very scenic in its own way. I applaud your mixing it up on this blog! I hate and fear cold weather and am not at my best with shorter days; summer OTOH is most welcome. I wonder what it is that some people love cold weather and enjoy outdoor sports in the winter and others want to spend all their time outside only in the summer, and even when it’s steamy? Thanks, BarbReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 26, 2016 - 1:48 PM

      Hi Barb,

      That’s a very good question! I was looking at the average temps in Tromso, for example and it is actually not much cooler than New York, and possible less humid? Not sure about that as there is certainly a lot of water around. But it does not freeze. I’m assuming that it’s salt-water which would explain that, in part.

      Maybe some people are able to tolerate the cold or heat better due to differences of their body chemistry?ReplyCancel

  • nancy keyes - December 25, 2016 - 5:11 PM

    Hi Laurel,
    Great post…Burrr! So warm here today that we walked on the beach and then sat on the porch reading! I hope you had the same!

    • Laurel Bern - December 25, 2016 - 9:14 PM

      Hi Nancy,

      Well, not quite as warm, but perfectly manageable. We went for a lovely walk at Bear Mountain Park. And then Chinese food. lolReplyCancel

  • Janie - December 25, 2016 - 2:11 PM

    What a cool post! (Bad) pun intended….. Seriously, very enjoyable reading here. New follower, and I’m so glad I found your site! I consider it a little giftie to myself. 🙂 Best of the season to you and yours, and thanks for sharing a bit of your world with us.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 25, 2016 - 9:12 PM

      Hi Janie,

      Welcome on all counts! I love bad puns! :] And best of the season to you as well!ReplyCancel

  • Libby - December 25, 2016 - 1:36 PM

    How appropriate just coming days after the Winter Solstice. Thank you so much! I’ve always been interested in light, geography and recently reading about the Köppen climate classification system. The images and maps are so interesting and learning about these ‘dark or twilight’ communities is fascinating.

    Enjoy the time with your family!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 25, 2016 - 9:11 PM

      Hi Libby,

      I’m glad that others find it fascinating too. It’s certainly quite different for those of us living in any part of the US except for Alaska.

      One thing I read is that some of the Longyearbyens actually have more of a problem during the polar day when the sun never sets.ReplyCancel

  • Faxon - December 25, 2016 - 1:22 PM

    Thank you for the great post. So enjoyed it. Perfect timing and yes, where we are has so much to do with design! Happy New Year.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 25, 2016 - 9:05 PM

      So glad that you enjoyed it Faxon. Happy New Year to you as well!ReplyCancel

  • E - December 25, 2016 - 12:38 PM

    Hi Laurel…just listened to your webcast on Million Dollar Decorators – gosh what luck! I had been thinking, wish Laurel Bern was on sometime…and I couldn’t believe it…James repeated your webcast today.(I had missed the original)..Just loved listening to you. Thanks and best wishes for a wonderful New Year! EReplyCancel

  • Christine Blau - December 25, 2016 - 12:30 PM

    Merry Christmas! The photos were beautiful! So much so, that I almost think (for a moment) I could live there! Thank you for bringing such beauty to my days!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 25, 2016 - 9:03 PM

      Hi Christine,

      Thank you so much!

      It certainly looks enchanting. Twilight has always been my favorite time of day and I love the idea of having several hours of it.ReplyCancel

  • Sue W - December 25, 2016 - 11:26 AM

    Happy Holidays Laurel and thanks so much for this entertaining and informative post. Like most of your posts, it must have taken quite a bit of time to research and write. Admittedly I am sipping a mimosa and thinking, “no freakin’ way” but going forward I vow to be less disgruntled about the 4:30 sunsets.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 25, 2016 - 11:43 AM

      Hi Sue,

      I had intended but maybe it wouldn’t have been appropriate to put my first snirt alert photo of gray/black/speckled “snow.” I took some photos on December 21st. I noticed where the people are running, that it looks pretty and clean.

      I also learned that everyone is really super nice and friendly. The other day, I was waiting for cars to make a right hand turn before I crossed carrying two bags of groceries. When I was about 3 steps into the road– another car comes zooming up and honks as if I’m in his way; even though it’s a state law that pedestrians have the right of way. Even if it wasn’t a law, what an A-hole! There are a lot of them in New York! Kinda tired of it. That’s not how I was raised.ReplyCancel

  • Carol - December 25, 2016 - 11:05 AM

    Beautiful, everywhere on earth there is beauty. Was it by accident or by design? I believe by design.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 25, 2016 - 11:36 AM

      Hi Carol,

      You are so right! It’s man who’s wrecked the beauty all too frequently! And I definitely think that it’s by design. No accident.ReplyCancel

  • Patti Memsic - December 25, 2016 - 10:30 AM

    Thank you Laurel for an amazing article. Informative and delightful. I will read anything that you write. I have just passed it off to my 32 year old son, who is an extreme skier and loves adventure. Also,to my husband, who hates the cold, but loves adventure.
    Thank you again for your wonderful gift to all of us……YOU.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 25, 2016 - 10:50 AM

      Oh thanks so much Patti! That warms my heart immensely! Well, I’m off to spend some time with my family.

      Hope that you’re having a beautiful holiday! ReplyCancel

  • Betty - December 25, 2016 - 9:56 AM

    omg….what a FANTASTIC blogpost, laurel! just wonderful and really put a smile on my face this christmas morning (with drizzle outside!) i forwarded to my friends…..thank you so much for taking the time and effort to put this excellent blog post together….also, be sure to anyone reading this to click on her associated links which were also quite fascinatingReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 25, 2016 - 10:48 AM

      Thanks so much Betty! There are two Bettys (Betties?) today. I wish I could see people!

      And thanks for forwarding to your friends! That’s a present for me! xoxoReplyCancel

  • Mackenzie Carpenter - December 25, 2016 - 9:46 AM

    LOVED this. What a Christmas present. You are not only a wonderful interior designer, you are a remarkable, interesting person of great curiosity and generosity. This post has me looking at winter in Pittsburgh in a whole new way! Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 25, 2016 - 10:46 AM

      Thank you so much Mackenzie. I wasn’t sure how people would react to this one but once in a while, I think it’s nice to mix it up a little.

      One thing that bugs me with some blogs is when I feel like I’m reading the same post over and over (and over) again.

      But I’m really glad that you enjoyed it!ReplyCancel

  • Jerry - December 25, 2016 - 9:18 AM

    As always, I enjoy reading your entertaining and informative blogs. I hope you weren’t in a bah humbug mood when you wrote this one with all of your “damn” language :-/. We do appreciate all of your hard work and wish you a blessed (not damned) 2017!!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 25, 2016 - 10:44 AM

      Hi Jerry,

      Not bah humbug, just vulgar naturally. lol All the best to you as well!ReplyCancel

  • Val - December 25, 2016 - 7:36 AM

    Wow, it really puts the things into perspective 🙂 Thank you for the link to the video (it turned out there are a lot of polar videos there) and for publishing this post on the very Christmas day. I’ve just got up and read it while having my morning coffee, a great start of the day 🙂

    Have a very nice Christmas, Hannukah, or whatever you are having! Best wishes for the next year!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 25, 2016 - 10:43 AM

      Thanks so much Val. It occurred to me that it might not be a good idea to publish on Christmas, but I wanted to keep to my schedule and figure that folks will get to it when they can.

      Hope that you’re having a beautiful holiday too! I’m with my family today which is a treat!ReplyCancel

  • Betty - December 25, 2016 - 4:47 AM

    Beautiful …ReplyCancel