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How we winter

Illustration by Andjela Padjeski

How we winter in the Midwest

Midwesterners have different relationships with winter. Some appreciate the time to hunker down and hibernate, some grit their teeth and endure it, and some outright embrace it, seeing a blanket of snow as an opportunity for a seasonal thrill.

There’s no one way to winter, and this year, we wanted to hear how some of our favorite creatives and contributors weather the season. Here are eight perspectives on whiling away the dark, gloomy months, from embracing ‘Hygge’ to trying a new endurance sport to kicking off a meditative practice called ICEWATCH23. Click on any story to read the full essay.


Illustration by Andjela Padjeski

“As I try to get through another Chicago winter, Hygge is helping me realize that my mental health and well-being are important and need dedicated time.”

Araceli Gomez-Aldana, WBEZ anchor, on Hygge and seasonal depression

How we winter

David Travis for WBEZ

"I revel in swimming year-round, all winter long, in temperatures and conditions that once seemed foreboding and unappealing. I’ve discovered the pleasures of cold-water swimming, the joy and discipline to be had in embracing what was once unthinkable, to the point where it is now hard to imagine not doing it."

Alison Cuddy, Chicago writer and curator, on the joys of swimming in a frozen lake

How we winter

Chef Erick Williams of Virtue Restaurant makes a winter soup using legumes at his home in Chicago on December 16, 2022. Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Manuel Martinez

“This winter I pledged to drop the food delivery apps and return to the kitchen to create healthy, bright meals for my family and me.

Still, I’d been out of the cooking game for a minute, so I needed expert inspiration. I called on Erick Williams, the James Beard Award-winning chef and owner of Virtue Restaurant & Bar and Mustard Seed Kitchen in Hyde Park.”

Cianna Greaves, WBEZ morning producer, on reinvigorating her winter soup routine

How we winter

Lou Foglia for WBEZ

“I’ve often wondered what motivates the bike riders I encounter in the cold, and if they feel the same sense of community in passing. Along a 60-mile route across the city undertaken in stops and starts in December and early January, I stopped to speak with a broad-ranging group of Midwestern winter cyclists determined to see the season through.”

Lou Foglia, Chicago photographer, on winter biking, gear and motivation to go further

How we winter

Reporter Samantha Callender uses a hot towel to remove cleansing oil from her face at Scratch Goods on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 in Chicago, Ill. (Taylor Glascock/for WBEZ)

Taylor Glascock for WBEZ

“Whether it’s taking a few moments daily to center myself or treating myself every few months to a spa experience, the time and money I put into skin care is my way this winter of keeping my physical and mental health a priority.”

Samantha Callender, WBEZ digital fellow, on building a better cold weather skin care routine


Justine Tobiasz

“I slowly discovered that in winter, the world slows down, and I can too. I didn’t feel the same guilt as I would in summer spending an entire day indoors making images or objects in my studio. In winter, I could sit down, focus and hone in on exactly what I wanted to make.”

EC Miller, Chicago artist, on finding that creative streak in winter


Courtesy of Gary Kuzminski

“As winter darkness and cold deepened in early 2021, I wondered if cross-country skiing might be at the sweet spot of recreation and acid test for a middle-aged man in reasonably good shape trying to escape a never-ending pandemic.”

Zachary Nauth, Oak Park writer, on learning to cross-country ski at 60


Illustration by Cori Nakamura Lin

“Practically, ICEWATCH is very simple. Every few days of the winter I bundled up, walked over to the lake, observed the ice, took pictures and then went home.”

Cori Nakamura Lin, Chicago illustrator and designer on the spiritual practice of icewatching

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