Hygge has definitely been the word of the season. Pronounced hoo-ga or hue-ga, it’s a Danish word which roughly translates as “cosy”. Cynics amongst us would say it has been a marketing person’s dream, coming just at the right time as the nights have closed in and the weather has grown colder, as hygge identifies with candles, snuggly blankets, warmth and togetherness. However, the Danish will tell you that hygge isn’t so much a physical thing as a feeling, and although things can enhance the hygglig experience, a thing alone isn’t enough, which suggests that hygge is something that money can’t buy. That’s not a new idea and the concept of hygge isn’t new either – it’s been around for hundreds of years, first in the Norwegian language and later as something that has become part of the Danish way of life.
I think it’s been part of our way of life too, but we’ve never had a specific word for it; instead it’s been lots of different words that add up to the same thing, and you might wonder if we really need another country’s word to describe something so inherent in ourselves. I say why not, if it makes us think about what we have. I can remember even as a small child loving to be wrapped up warm in my bed listening to the rain on the windows. That’s hygge. Or sitting outdoors with friends on a warm summer’s evening, watching the stars appear in the sky and the bats dart about like black shadows. That’s hygge too. If I can press the metaphorical pause button in any moment and soak it in, pressing it carefully between the pages of my memory to revisit another day, then what does it matter what it’s called? The word just encourages us to focus and I think that we are ready for that focus now.
I believe that opportunities often present themselves to us when we need them or are ready for them, and I think that we need hygge more than ever. As the world pulls itself apart with wars, with politics and with intolerances of many kinds, we need something that makes us feel safe and hygge offers us the opportunity to do that. Focussing on our homes, our families and our sense of well-being makes us slow down and appreciate the moment, and if we live moment to moment it is harder to be afraid of the future.
Of course, the problems of the world are not solved by lighting candles and wrapping ourselves up in blankets, but it is certainly true that more we love and take care of ourselves, the more love and care we have to share with others. Hygge is not always about our own cosiness, it extends to others as well and this dark, cold time of year is a timely reminder that not everyone feels safe and warm. I love that we are a world of many cultures which can be shared and I am happy to adopt a word into my own language that encompasses love, happiness, cosiness and a feeling that everything is right with the world. After all, isn’t that what we really want?