Hygge: The Art of Cozy
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Hygge. If you haven’t stumbled upon this easily mispronounced concept yet, it’s only a matter of time before you do. The Danish way of life, roughly translating to “cozy,” has become an international craze and buzzword, landing a well-earned place in the Oxford Dictionary and spurring the production of more than 20 books on U.S. soil last year alone.
Social media has been abuzz with interest too. Pinterest estimates it to be one of the hottest trends for home decor after a 286 percent surge in hygge-related searches came up over the past year. Twitter and Instagram are equally littered with hygge hashtags, as subscribers seek to define what constitutes legitimate coziness.
Hygge—pronounced much like a car horn in a black and white cartoon (“hoo-guh”)—is something of a Danish national manifesto and for good reason. Despite harsh winters, bookended with dark and dreary days (the nation averages more than 171 days of rain annually), the Danes are notoriously happy people, ranking among the most congenial according to surveys conducted by the United Nations and others. While hygge is a year-round pursuit within Scandinavian culture, its mass appeal is highest in the winter season. No longer does Old Man Winter have to be endured. Thanks to hygge, he can be embraced fully.
Hygge is hard to define clearly because it’s something of an open-ended concept, laced throughout the Danish vernacular like rows in a cross stitch. In the mother tongue, hygge can be used as a noun, adjective, verb or a compound noun (take, for instance, the tongue-in-cheek hyggebukser which roughly translates to “pants I would never in a million years wear in public, but let’s be honest, I wore them all weekend at home” or the equally impressive hyggekrog, “a little corner in my house where I can get cozy”—think bay window or a small reading nook in the den). The Danes are crazy about adding hygge to words to define the act of making everyday activities and places warm and inviting, peaceful and comforting.
What can be defined cledarly as hygge is this: ambiance, aesthetic and that warm fuzzy feeling you get when both are just right. This is most aptly characterized by candlelit nooks, woolen socks, hot tea and pastries and a roaring fire. The Danes view candlelight as the most intrinsically important, more a natural antidepressant than a fire hazard, which is perhaps one of the reasons tapers and votives find themselves gracing the shelves of schoolrooms and workspaces as much as hearth and home. Not surprisingly, the Danes consume more unscented candles than any other people in the world, burning more than 13 pounds of melted wax per person each year. We Americans tend to utilize this ambient lighting best throughout the holidays but shelve it at the start of the year. Is it any wonder the winter blues tend to reach full effect in January? Hygge gives its patrons full license to indulge in holiday illumination all throughout the winter season.
Hygge imparts equal value on relationship toward environment, food and people. It’s embodied in thick porridge, hearty stew and mulled cider, but experienced more fully when all are partaken with those whom you love most. Hygge, at its heart, is about savoring but it’s also about simplicity. It’s indulgence with moderation. Hygge cannot be bought. It’s found in being grateful for what you have, determining to find joy and beauty in the midst of the daily grind, while seeking to live authentically and fully engaged with friends and family. Because it’s not so much about having the right candles or the right mugs as having the right perspective.