Have a little hygge: Embracing the Danish art of cosy living

hygge

I love winter. I love nothing more than cosying up at home, lighting the fire, fixing the fairy lights, reading a book, watching a film, making soup, hot drinks and mulled wine. The Danish have a term for this, and the term is hygge. You may have noticed that ‘hygge’ has become a household name recently. This old Danish concept has become fashionable and ‘on trend’ in Britain and around the world. Stroll through the blogosphere and you will find many a lifestyle blog heralding the praises of this cosy way of life. Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is really a thing now! Hygge has been categorized as a word of the year in both the Collins and Oxford Dictionaries.

So what the heck is hygge? Well it’s not a new age concept. It simply refers to the Danish art of living well, and it can be loosely translated into English as a ‘cosiness of soul’.

Origin of ‘Hygge’

  • Term comes from a Norwegian word meaning wellbeing.
  • First appeared in Danish writing in the 19th Century and has since evolved into the cultural idea known in Denmark today.

The Danes are reported to be the happiest people on earth. Economically Denmark does well, however hygge has nothing to do with economics or materialism, and it’s not a middle class concept either. Hygge is practised by Danes from all walks of life. Hygge is the practice of creating warmth and togetherness. It can be described as the feeling you have when you are camped around the fire indoors, snuggled under a blanket, wearing warm socks and drinking hot chocolate with friends. But it’s so much more than being cosy. It’s really a state of mind. The Danes aren’t the only country who know how to be cosy, but they do lead the way in teaching the world about how to manage the challenges that winter brings. Not everyone loves winter. Many people dread the shorter days and freezing temperatures. And with stress levels rising in the West, and treacherous tragedy happening everywhere, embracing the art of enjoying simple pleasures with family and friends seems all the more imperative. It is interesting that in a year that has seen Brext, Trump and other turmoil take centre stage, cosiness has become a huge lifestyle trend here in the UK and abroad.

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Image courtesy of Amara

You don’t have to be Danish to pratice hygge. Hygge embodies the themes of family, belonging, community, connection, security, home, presence and love. These are all themes that may be lacking in the West today. We may have higher standards of living today, but do we have better quality of life?

Even in Denmark, some older Danes feel that hygge isn’t what it used to be, as the emphasis on community has lessened. It’s now generally considered hyggeligt to watch telly alone, perhaps while consuming crisps!

But these are concepts that all cultures can identify with. Perhaps you and your family practice hygge instinctively, but you didn’t know that there was a word for it. Hygge is about enjoying the moment – whether it be savouring a cup of coffee, having a bubble bath at the end of a long day at work, or bringing people together over a meal.

hygge-lights

What are some other ways to cultivate hygge in our homes?  Candlelight is absolutely key. Cosying up the couch is also key- add texture by using throws, pillows, and quilts. Invest in comfortable loungewear. And of course, there is always the ambience that a fire brings. Hygge isn’t limited to the indoor sphere. In fact, getting out into nature can be just as hygge!

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Image courtesy of Amara

Don’t overdo – hygge is not about overdoing things. It’s not about indulgence. Hygge is about utilizing our five senses to absorb the joy of even the simplest things; the smell of an orange and cinnamon cake; the words in a favourite poem; the feeling of lying in a bed of freshly laundered linen; or just looking out at the autumn leaves in the garden. Hygge is everywhere; we need to slow down and learn to linger.

Perhaps it’s natural to long for a simpler, cosier life, however critics have argued that the hygge craze is overhyped. It’s even been mocked by some critics claiming that the concept has become very commercialized. Everything from shoes to shepherd’s pie has been marketed as hyggeligt. Hygge has been used to sell anything and everything from woollen socks, bedding, and furnishings. The hygge craze has single handedly revolutionized the candle industry! There are also hygge socks, hygge hammocks, hygge colouring books and even hygge phone covers. How ironic. A college in London has even started teaching its students how to hygge. But it’s important to remember that hygge isn’t about stuff.

Hygge can be embraced at any time of year. In summer, picnics in the park, barbeques with friends, outdoor concerts, street festivals and bike rides can all be very hygge. Reflecting it’s northern hemisphere origins, Christmas is regarded as the ‘high season of hygge’. What better time to introduce it into your family.

Next week I’ll be featuring a post on how to hygge with kids! Til then, keep calm and have a hygge day!

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wreath

 

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