On Friday my sister arrived for the weekend armed with the latest book on ‘How to lead a Hygge Lifestyle’. As it was bucketing down outside, it didn’t take long before we were all huddled in front of the fire, drinking hot chocolate and playing a slow game of scrabble. We probably could have done with more candles, some fair isle socks and a photo album for reminiscing, but by all accounts, it was an almost perfect Hygge moment.
Denmark is famous for many great things – Danish design, Carlsberg and Karen Blixen to name a few, but when it comes to lifestyle, the Danes have well and truly knocked it out of the park. Whether you call it Hooga, Hue-gay or Hugge, the reality is that we have all probably shared a cosy, warm, together moment at some point in our lives. I can still remember as a child sitting in front of the fire, eating banana sandwiches watching the muppet show with my siblings, probably my earliest Hygge-like experience. And now, as we seek more meaningful lives, there is a Hygge cultural movement afoot, with laden down shelves of books, articles galore, a dedicated IKEA page, even an Unwind and Let Go Pinterest board, making it officially cool this Winter to embrace a Hygge Lifestyle!
Lets start with the candles. Apparently more than half of the Danish population light candles almost every day during Autumn and Winter. In line with Denmark, candles are big business in my family. My sister cannot arrive at our door for dinner without brushing past us to get down to the task of lighting a zillion candles – in fact I think she carries a stash of tea lights in her handbag for emergencies. The very act of buying a new candle is like balm for the soul, especially if the scent is evocative or memory laden. Although the Danes would prefer you to use non scented candles and let the rich aroma of a slow baked tart perfume the air instead. And speaking of cooking, having the opportunity to offer up anything home made in our time crunched lives, is very Hygge-like. Having spent a whole day in a friends country kitchen baking apple tarts with this years harvest was one of the happiest days I have spent in a long time. So it is kind of understandable that baking and cooking whether offering or receiving, align harmoniously with all that is good and true about Hygge.
Blankets and throws are another essential ingredient to embracing Hygge. Fortunately I love love love cashmere blankets and have an extensive array strewn across sofas and chairs. Unfortunately my cats love them too, meaning anyone who comes to the house is likely to leave with a mohawk of cat hair down their backs depending on where they decided to sit. Nontheless, a sleeping cat is very Hygge-like and perfect for enjoying a mindful moment. Because of course, Hygge is all about being in the moment. Stroking your purring cat, chatting (and listening) to family, sipping your aromatic tea should all be considered in the moment activities – thus enforcing a digital detox. No more texting, messaging or Net-flixing, Hygge is about being together, savouring the moment, enjoying each others company. Which is why the photo album comes in handy – perfect for the ‘Do you remember when…’ conversations.
And so it is the case, that even though trends will come and go, Hygge is one trend at least that gives us permission to curl up in front of the fire with a bowl of popcorn and know that this simple companionable serenity is all you need to have, to feel blissfully happy. Given that Denmark continues to have the highest rate of happiness in the world – there must surely be a correlation.