Do you find pleasure in nestling deep in your blanket on cold days, or warming up the house with a slow-cooking stew? Do you feel content with sharing a simple meal with family and friends, or gathering around a campfire under a moonlit sky?
The Danes have a word for all these things: hygge. But hygge is not any one “thing,” per se. It’s a Scandinavian lifestyle concept that encompasses all things cozy (in its most simplistic definition) and the intimate connection one feels with others. While there’s no direct translation in English, hygge can be thought of as the pursuit of everyday happiness, or the art of creating a calming and comfortable atmosphere in and out of the home.
Hygge can be found at a picnic in the park in summer, or wrapped in a woolen throw on the couch in winter. Relaxing in shearling slippers is hyggelig (the adjective form of the word). Arranging flowers in your home is hyggelig. Dining under a string of bistro lights is hyggelig. Canoeing on a lake, coming back to your cabin, listening to the rain, putting a roast in the oven, and pouring wine while you reminisce with friends — you can’t get any more hyggelig than that.
Pronounced hue-guh, hygge was shortlisted for Oxford Dictionaries’ “Word of the Year” in 2016, following a trend embraced all over the world by people who want to know the secret to the “happiest people on earth.” Clearly, we’re feeling burnt out and broken down in the heated political climate, and nothing soothes the soul more than enjoying simple pleasures and making meaningful rituals of mundane tasks. With politically heavy contenders like alt-right, Brexiteer, and woke also making the Oxford list (and a depressing slate of other 2016 “Words of the Year” that included post-truth, xenophobia, surreal, and dumpster fire), hygge was a welcome breath of fresh air. (It even made the shortlist for Collins English Dictionary’s “Word of the Year” as well.)
We’re living in uncertain times no matter which side of the fence (er, wall?) we’re on. When you need a little break from your Facebook-turned-political feed, do like the Danes do: unplug from technology, throw on the comfy pair of pants you secretly love but are too embarrassed to wear in public (yep, there’s a Danish word for those pants, too — hyggebukser), and immerse yourself in a good book or bake a cake that fills your house with all kinds of amazing smells. It’s about wholesome and nourishing things and doing what makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
How do you like to hygge?