When it comes to lifestyle trends, I can be counted on to be late to the party. So it has only been in the past few weeks that I have at last become aware of the concept of hygge, which has apparently spread from Denmark to the UK and thence to America faster than Erik the Red could row a longship (Erik was actually Norwegian, but from my vantage point over here in California, that’s close enough).
If you, like me, are a late adopter, you should know that hygge has nothing at all to do with raiding and pillaging. Hygge — which some sources will tell you is pronounced HOO-gah, while others will admonish you that HUE-gah is correct — is all about coziness, contentment, and delight in simple pleasures. This is a principle I can entirely get behind.
Having devoted nearly twenty minutes of research into the topic, I can tell you that apparently hygge is as central to the Danish national identity as freedom is to Americans. Not that the Danes don’t care about being free, of course. They’re just more relaxed about it than us Yanks, and they prefer their freedom with a cup of something comforting, enjoyed in front of a crackling fireplace. Being, or feeling, hygge is a unifying principle in Denmark, something everyone can agree on.
No wonder Americans are so eager to embrace it.
Being American, we are frantically commercializing hygge. There are books on the hygge life, which act as a sort of laid-back counterpart to Marie Kondo’s Konmari philosophy of extreme tidying. Amazon has more than a pageful of hygge volumes But you can also run out and buy, or order online from your seat by the fire, a host of designated hygge items: candles and candleholders, throw blankets, shearling-lined slippers, socks, cable-knit sweaters, mugs, and so on. There are whole websites devoted to hygge products.
But hold on to your knitted hat. You don’t need stuff to be hygge, and anyway, most of those items are things you probably already have. As I understand it, and certainly as I choose to interpret it, hygge is an attitude, a state of mind in which one consciously focuses on the joy of candlelight on a dark winter evening, the company of close friends or a good book, the taste of a nice slice of cake (cake is very hygge). And a cup of something warm and delicious, although as a resident of Napa Valley I must draw the line at mulled wine, as no self-respecting oenophile would allow someone to heat up a decent vintage and throw spices into it.
Not happening in my neighborhood.
Apart from that heresy, everything about hygge resonates with me. Especially at this time of year. So may your holidays, however you celebrate them, be filled with hygge moments.
Oh yes! You have no idea how many times that word is used in Denmark 🇩🇰 but even more, the adjective: hyggeligt every time you’ve been visiting with people, say for dinner, you call the next day and say thank you, it was hyggeligt! Even just having a cup of coffee with a friend, you say, it was hyggeligt.
The thing is, it’s not only the stuff like candles that make it hyggeligt, it’s the connection you feel you have at that moment with other people. You are in the moment enjoying each other’s company and YOU DO NOT EAT FAST. Christmas lunches in Denmark can last four hours and you enjoy it!
And as we know the fast food concept came out of this country and the urge to eat quickly followed.
And the dark and short days mean you spend more time indoors and hence want to hygge and yes, need the light from the candles. It all make sense 🤗
And in regards to the mulled wine, you use cheap wine and to spice it up, add AQUAVIT which is like vodka (made on potatoes). Normally you drink that ice cold in shot glasses and beer besides, at the Christmas lunches 🎄hence the long lunches 😝
I am so glad you weighed in, Elizabeth, as an actual Dane 🙂
And after your description, I am revising my position on mulled wine. I would be totally down with a hyggeligt Danish Christmas lunch!
How is it that prior to last month I had never heard of hygge and now it’s everywhere? I am tripping over this Danish word everywhere I go! Love the laid back concept. We could all use more hygge in our lives.
I would be hesitant to sacrifice a bottle of wine for mulled wine, but there is a holiday 5-mile race hubby and I often do where it is served piping hot in a tent with a big fire going after the race. I do make an exception in that case!
And I endorse that exception. Sounds very hyggeligt 🙂
What a great concept, and word! I have never heard of hygge, but my family and I try very hard to live that kind of life. How truly American that we have commercialized the idea! Hygge seems to me to be a perfect way to be during these holidays.
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