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Some years, the holidays can just seem a bit much. The parties, the cookie swaps, and the tree lightings can be wonderful fun, but some years it can be hard for your Christmas spirit to keep up as you rush from place to place.

If you’re looking to slow things down a bit this year, consider the Danish concept of hygge, a cozy contentment associated with enjoying the small pleasures in life: reading a good book under a warm blanket on a snowy day, sipping hot chocolate in front of the fire, even bundling up and taking a walk in the brisk winter air.

The North Shore is a great place to embrace a New England version of hygge as you think about gifts and connecting with loved ones. So read on for five ideas for slowing down your holiday season and enjoying the little things this year.

Appleton Farms | Photograph by Sarah Rydgren

Walk in a winter wonderland

A ramble through the woods or along the beach may not seem exactly cozy, but time in nature can have a calming effect and stoke our feelings of wonder, both great remedies for a too-busy holiday lineup. Grab your partner, kids, or friends and take a stroll through your neighborhood – or check out our recommendations for some great places to wander.

Bring on the books

Grab an old favorite from the bookshelf and a fluffy blanket, then while a way a couple of hours in another world. Looking for a new story to get lost in, or the perfect volume for a gift? The North Shore offers a wealth of independent bookstores staffed by knowledgeable bibliophiles who will help you find a romance for your sister-in-law, a mystery for your uncle, or new-to-you classic.

Sip a hot beverage

Wrapping your hands around a warm mug is one of the best ways to experience seasonal snugness. Keep your cozy local by savoring a cup of hot chocolate from one the top local purveyors – many also offer hot chocolate mix by the bag, perfect for gift-giving. If hot chocolate isn’t your thing, there are plenty of lovely tea houses and local coffee roasters to help you warm up.

Fire it up

Basking in the glow of a warm fire is one of most hygge ways to spend time in the cold months. If you have a fireplace inside or a fire pit in the yard, pile up some logs, strike a match, and gather your family near. If you don’t have your own fire facilities, fear not – plenty of North Shore restaurants have fires you can enjoy. Try the Asian-inspired Joy Nest in Newburyport, Irish pub the Indo in Beverly, or the Tavern at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem. At Riverwalk Brewing in Newburyport you can book an outdoor firepit for two and a half hours, complete with snacks and seating for five. If we’ve missed your favorite fiery destination, share in the comments.

Gingerbread people at Sandpiper Bakery | Photograph by Joel Laino

Bake up some sweet treats

Cookies are the quintessential holiday season comfort food, whether you are making them or just nibbling away. If baking is your thing, gather your ingredients and take your time in the kitchen, savoring the fun of transforming butter and sugar into tasty delights. Need recipe ideas? Get inspired by these favorites from North Shore bakers. If taste-testing is more your speed, visit one – or more – of the region’s many amazing bakeries and dig in.