Say Hi to Hygge
This is Hygge’s time. It’s just a feeling in the air. That and about 20 new books on the subject—from spiritual tomes, to organizational guides, to cookbooks—plus dozens of blogs, YouTube channels and TV show appearances, some witty (Younger), others odd (Vice and hygge-not a natural mix for us).
All this about one quaint, home-spun, Danish notion of happiness-through-coziness. Oh, and all this in the past 18 months.
Which means you’ve probably heard of the Hygge by now, unless you've been living under a rock or relaxing at a spa retreat in the forests of Jutland. In which case, you're probably 200% Hygge already and really don't need to read this. (Just kidding.)
But for those comfortless souls who aren't up on Hygge, or who want to learn more, sit down, relax, and grab a warm cardamom bun (and one for us too, please) while we conduct our concise yet complete tour of all things Hygge.
Hygge and Cry
First off, it’s pronounced ”hoo-gah,” like hoopla, though some insist on “hue-gah.” We adopt a hyggeligt attitude on the whole subject and say life is too short to quibble.
Hygge comes from a Norwegian word that first appeared in print in Denmark in the 18th century. It doesn’t translate exactly into English, but “well-being” or “coziness” come closest, with some adding “the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming,” which says a lot about the Scandinavian mindset that birthed Hygge and why it probably evolved in first place.
“We do not pick a seat close to strangers if other seats are available. We do not talk to strangers in the trains,” explains a character in Danish author Steen Langstrup’s short story, “Metro.” If that seems contradictory–cozy but standoffish–it’s not. Danes stick close to home and prefer “to emphasize intimacy and the unity of their inner circles,” notes author Louisa Thomasen Brits in her offering to the Hygge canon, Book of Hygge. Which is probably why there is no such thing as a Hygge house party.
Rather, Hygge is like mindfulness with more of a focus on sensual pleasures: stopping to smell the roses, cherishing the feel of a cashmere throw on a cold winter’s night, an intimate dinner with friends. Call it unmindfulness, enjoying rather than overthinking. Hygge is basically all the small, delightful things you ever wanted to be doing in your free time rolled up in one neat philosophy, or rather wrapped in a down duvet, wearing chenille booties and sitting before a crackling fire.
In fact, you are probably experiencing a Hygge moment when you do anything involving a fire, not on fire, but by a fire, not a raging one either, a low, smoldering fire similar to . . . candlelight.
According to Meik Wiking, author of the best-selling title of the bunch, The Little Book of Hygge, many Danes actually have candles strewn around their offices, as well as plants, to keep the Hygge vibe alive at work. Another of his suggestions is woolen socks, perfect for combating office AC tyranny.
Wiking also identifies chocolate as being very Hygge. (In addition to being an author, he is the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute, so we may have to listen to him about the chocolate.)
Eating and drinking are huge in Hygge. Hushed conversation with good food, great wine and excellent company is classic Hygge. But stopping to appreciate just what a special time you are having, making a toast that compliments the host on a very “hyggeligt” evening as the rest of the company murmur and clink in agreement, that's Extreme Hygge.
Hygge is baking with family or friends. Especially cakes. Hygge never met a cake it didn’t like.
You know what else is totally Hygge? Rain on the windowpane; linen napkins in antique napkin rings your grandmother gave you; writing poetry in a deerskin notebook. Cats are actually Hygge, but that's cheating: Everything soft is Hygge.
Cozy Does It
OK, but might this be a passing trend, the mere flame of fadhood, destined to flicker out faster than a scented candle? What is the evidence of Hygge’s staying power?