Are you aware of the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced ‘hooga’ or ‘hoo-guh’)? It is often translated as ‘cosy’ but then quickly you are told that that is not really accurate. It has to do with the sense of well being you have in a comfortable setting, perhaps sharing a beverage with friends or wearing wool socks and wrapped in a blanket on a winter evening surrounded by candles. Hygge can be experienced year round but the warm glow of Christmas makes this the signature season.
Lately hygge seems to be cropping up all over the place (last week I saw on TV my blogging colleague Carsten Knox talking about his annual hygge party; he has Danish family). The Oxford Dictionary even shortlisted hygge as one of their Words of the Year 2016, so I’m doing you a favour if this is news!
We first learned of hygge in a helpful book called How to be Danish that Sheila got from the library as we prepared for a trip. We now own a copy.
On our fall visit to Copenhagen we asked people about hygge but it seemed to be something they understood and lived and did not think too much about. Tasteful surroundings and a populace who are among the happiest in the world handles a lot of it. In this photo the friend we were staying with in Copenhagen had set the table for lunch with friends. The food was as tasty as the setting.
And how have we brought hygge into our lives? Mostly by just being mindful of our surroundings (and burning lots of candles). I often light a candle while making the porridge in the morning and acknowledge the sun rising dimly.
Recognizing that we live in a northern land and bringing a little light to the darkness feels special. Knowing when to stop is also important.
And of course it is wonderful if you have a group of friends who are lively and sympathetic.
So, I hope you achieve your own hygge over the holidays. I’ll light a few more candles to thank you for noticing the blog all through the last year.
- The current Legislature session has not been loaded with hygge but the folks at Province House do know how to do tasteful, northern, ‘hoogalee’ decorations.
- Want to hear my nomination for the Halifax location with the least amount of hygge? Why, that would be the Mumford Bus Terminal! Think of folks standing in the dark, in freezing rain. Sucks the hygge right out of a fella.
- And a couple of totally gratuitous images: One of the joys of living in the north is that the outdoors can be used as a giant walk in cooler. When we were invited by friends for lunch last weekend, I spied the first course and dessert, waiting out on the back verandah.
The act of holiday baking feels hygge to me. For decades we have made a quick bread version of stollen that we give to friends. In the last few years I’ve stencilled some with icing sugar. Fa la la la la.