My brother, who studied abroad in Denmark last year, recently sent me an article about a word that’s become a new, personal, favorite: hygge. Hygge* is a Danish concept that, not literally translated, means “fireplace warmth with candles and family and friends and food, tucked under blankets on a snowy day, cup-of-coffee conversation, scarf-snuggle, squiggly, warm love.” In other words, slow down, stay in, and snuggle up. Sounds pretty great, right? According to the Danes, it’s their copious amount of hygge-time that make Denmark the happiest country on Earth.
The beauty of hygge is that it does not have one static meaning; it means something different to everybody. NPR accompanied its article on hygge with pilfered tweets from Danes, hashtagging hygge:
“Arrived at the cabin, sitting in front of the fireplace with a book and biscuits. #hygge.” -@JohanneBoat
“Grandmother, grandfather, mother and father for coffee and cake in an hour. #hygge.” -@NinaVindel
“Will spend as much as possible of my day off Friday under the blanket with books, magazines, movies and tea in gallons. #hygge.”-@LiseRoest
“Taking a coffee and walk with someone from work. #hygge.” -@ojholb
To each his own hygge.
As the folks in Buffalo will attest, and the sudden plethora of Santa commercials will confirm, winter and the holiday season are here. Which means that, as far as we’re concerned, it’s the perfect time to embrace hygge.
For us, hygge means books, warmth, coziness, cooking, each other, family, tea, and friends. Thankfully, those things are readily abundant.
So, we’ve spent the past few weeks preparing for hygge by making our house more homey, more cozy. We’ve resuscitated pillows, hung curtains, filled previously bare walls with pictures, and washed all of our blankets, sweatshirts, and winter hats. We even—no laughing, please—made a third floor hygge room.
It took the better part of a Saturday to make our previously empty fourth bedroom on the third floor (the warmest room in the house) into our winter hygge family room. We filled it with a gifted futon and chairs, an enormous Iowa flag (and other dorm-like decorations), and lots of extra pillows, blankets, and twinkling lights. Just thinking about it right now makes me much happier and content.
Of course, hygge’s not just about place and physical comfort; it’s about the people you’re with and your state of mind. Luckily for us, the upcoming holiday season means that we have weekend visits with family and friends scheduled practically every weekend until the end of January, with just a few weekends free for our own alone weekend hygge time.
With hygge, as we understand it, the goal is not necessarily to count down the days until the next vacation, or to buy that second house meant just for relaxation and comfort. It’s not about where you’re going; it’s about maintaining a sort of warm tranquility right where you are.
We’re not going on a real vacation anytime soon. For the time being, though, I’m content just walking into our home every day after work, knowing I’ve entered our own personal, permanent, bastion of hygge.
* There is no direct English translation. Perhaps that’s why America ranks as the 17th most happy country.