Let's all get cozy... the Danish way 2015.12.02



That was the subject line of a recent e-mail from my daughter Rosie. I thought she’d just hit some random letters on the keyboard when I noticed the e-mail from her one cold night a couple weeks ago when I was out shopping.

“Have you heard of hygge?” she asked. “It’s a Danish word that sort of means coziness, but it’s like a way of life for long winters.”

And then she gave her opinion of hygge as it relates to me, “You should stop scheduling library events and do hygge with Dad—probably lots of popcorn and Netflix. Or, if you have to schedule something at the library, you could have a hygge night.”

It was cold with snow in the air as I was reading Rosie’s e-mail and I could have used a good dose of hygge. She provided a link for more information and I soon found myself bicycling around Copenhagen with Anna as she explored the ins and outs of hygge (pronounced hue-gah or hooga) in a short Danish tourism video.

Anna’s summary of what Danish hygge is all about? “It’s the atmosphere, the people, having a good time, relaxing.” She says you can find it pretty much everywhere in Copenhagen. I think I find it every morning at my house. It’s the reason I struggle to get out of bed—flannel sheets, feather blanket, down comforter, pillow top mattress—the warmth is just too seductive, the bed too comfortable.

But Anna neglects to mention the candles and the dim lighting in her summary…they seemed to be ever-present in her journey to discover hygge. I create my own dim lighting by stretching a nice cotton sock over my eyes; I’m not a big fan of candles in general, at least not the scented ones most people favor. I do like plain beeswax ones, though, and I’m a sucker for the memory of the scent of bayberry candles. 

Mostly, candles just remind me of storms and when the lights go out, and from there, I’m reminded of the night we lost power and when the lights came back on, David discovered he’d served himself from the compost bowl instead of the salad bowl. By candlelight it all looked the same to him—he had poured dressing on it and eaten several bites before the restored power revealed his folly. That can’t be too hygge—or hygenic.

The Danish tourism site says hygge actually comes from a Norwegian word meaning “well-being.” Intrigued by the whole concept, I searched for more info on hygge in America and came across the very beautiful Hygge House website of Alex Beauchamp. Alex’s website is more like a blog and she posts essays and photos that illustrate hygge. She says that hygge “is a feeling or mood that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary everyday things simply extraordinary; whether it’s making coffee a verb by lingering over a cup to a cozy evening in with friends to lighting a candle with every meal.” 

She continues, “Words like cosiness, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance, fellowship, simpleness and living well are often used to describe the idea of Hygge.”

Several sites mention that Danes are the happiest people in the world and Alex says it’s because “they make enjoyment a priority and take the time to celebrate/acknowledge simple, wonderful moments (like meals, visiting, being active or even just sitting by the beach) that nourish the soul. They find ways to incorporate hygge into their daily life so it becomes a natural extension rather than a forced and stressful event.

“By creating simple rituals without effort (such as brewing real tea with a little china cup every evening to stopping at the flower shop every week) the Danes see both the domestic and personal life as an art form and not drudgery to get away from. Hygge is about being present and recognizing (and enjoying) the moment.”

I aspire to that philosophy, but my life moments go more like this:

From the living room, David hears me sniffing in the kitchen as I pull meat from a turkey bone while making soup. Trying to be helpful (or eager to stop the annoying sniffling sound), he comes up beside me, places a tissue on my nose, and invites me to blow my nose. Weirdest thing ever! 

Have you ever had someone blow your nose? Goodness, gracious, what a bizarre feeling! I profusely apologize to my kids and grandkids! I instantly understood why little kids hate it when you try to wipe their nose with a tissue, or, worse yet, when you put the tissue to their nose and say, blow. Everything about it is all wrong—at least compared to how I would blow my own nose. The tissue placement, the squeeze, the wipe—Holy hygge! Nothing is where it should be when someone else is at the helm. 

If Alex can elevate ordinary nose-wiping to something “simply extraordinary,” I’ll be totally sold on embracing hygge.