We all need a little hygge sometimes
Hygge, which is pronounced something like ‘herrghah’ (try clearing your throat whilst saying it for an authentic flourish) is a tricky-to-translate aspect of Danish culture. The origin of the word is actually Norwegian and old Nordic, and it means seeking refuge, protection, and shelter from the raging of the outside elements. Hygge came into use in the Danish language in the 18th century, but I love the way Danish-Anglo writer Louisa Thomsen Britt describes it as:
‘...the art of building sanctuary and community, of inviting closeness and paying attention to what makes us feel open-hearted and alive. To create well-being, connection and warmth. A feeling of belonging to the moment and to each other. Celebrating the everyday.’
As a self-confessed Scandophile, I’ve always been drawn to the deceptive simplicity of Scandinavian design, the celebration of natural materials and organic shapes, but in reading about the idea of ‘hygge’ to research this article, I’ve discovered that this is a Danish concept that encapsulates what truly draws me to all things Nordic.
It’s the quintessential cosiness of it all. I love the whole notion of candlelit suppers with friends, snuggling up on a sheepskin covered sofa in front of a glowing woodburner, ladling homemade soup into hand-thrown, earthenware bowls, and gathering my loved ones close to me, whilst shutting out the stresses and strains of everyday life. Denmark took the top spot on the United Nation's World Happiness Report 2013 & 2014, and came in third in the 2015 report, following closely behind Switzerland and Iceland.
It makes you wonder if this is because the Danes have the Hygge life down to a ‘T’. They incorporate it into their everyday life and creating cosiness is second-nature. Did you know, for example, that Denmark is the biggest consumer of candles, per head, in the whole of EU? They even outstrip Sweden, the birthplace of the Ikea nightlight multipack. This is a country that takes its cosiness seriously.
If, like me, you shop for clothes and soft furnishings by touching the fabrics first, and find that you gravitate towards neutral hues, natural materials and soft, comforting textures, you are already unwittingly embracing hygge.
You can even hygge at your desk (nobody can touch you for it) and it’s the little things that make a difference. Even as I’m typing this in my Surrey office, looking out of the window at a decidedly Nordic Noir-esque winter sky, I’m dreaming of all things Danish and delightful; wearing a cosy pair of woolly socks and inhaling the rich scents of oranges and cloves from an oil diffuser. Somehow, with a little helping of hygge, the World seems a cosier, more comforting place. Nice mug of hot chocolate and a Danish pastry anybody?
Mug & mittens image: Padurariu Alexandru