The importance of being Hygge
Updated: Oct 24
The Cambridge dictionary says that hygge (pronounced hyoo.guh) is
" A Danish word for a quality of cosiness (feeling warm, comfortable, and safe) that comes from doing simple things such as lighting candles, baking or spending time at home with your family"
Oxford languages define hygge as
“A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)”
For me hygge epitomises cosy, and cosy is the way I like to live my life and have done for as long as I can remember. However, the word hygge did not enter my vocabulary until 2016 or thereabouts.
Magazines started to print articles about hygge accompanied by idyllic images of Scandinavian-style homes. We were encouraged to buy Meik Wiking’s Little Book of Hygge, the Danish way to live well. It became a best seller. Denmark was ranked as one of the world's happiest nations, a nation that burns more candles than any other nation in the world. I reckon I can give them a run for their money in the candle burning department my husband will most definitely concur
I am passionate about Christmas. As soon as the festive season ends, I begin planning the next one, so imagine my delight when I read these words written by Wiking
“Even though it is possible to hygge all year round, only once a year is hygge the ultimate goal of an entire month”
Also worth mentioning, he claims
“Sweets are hyggelige. Cake is hyggeligt. Coffee or hot chocolate are hyggeligt too. Carrot sticks not so much”
Where had this man been all my life?
Hygge became trendy. Manufacturers jumped on the proverbial bandwagon and loaded it with hygge home decor, pandering to our wants and needs by describing things as hygge and naturally increasing sales
Of course, home décor ideas in books and magazines inspire and influence our choices, it is why many of us buy them, but for me, what I will now refer to not as hygge but as cosy, is a personal thing. What I find homely, relaxing, and welcoming may not float your boat at all.
I love cosy. I always have, I could never be a minimalist but what is meant by quality of cosiness? Cosy for me is a space filled with people, pets, and belongings that make me feel good, feel comfortable, feel at home, feel like me. Many things I treasure others would not think worthy of a second glance.
I derive a lot of satisfaction and well-being from creating and upcycling. I recently started to make my own soap and candles. I like painting, writing, and baking. That said, I don’t do much baking these days, let's just say I don’t feel tempted to eat soap or candles and leave it there. I am not a perfectionist; do I wish I were? Sometimes, but for me trying to make things perfect would diminish the pleasure I get from being creative. The imperfections are what make the soap, candles, cakes, and paintings uniquely mine.
Take a moment to picture this scene.
A fire burning brightly emanating heat and a heart-warming glow. A sofa, an armchair, a hearth rug to wriggle your toes in. Photographs of loved ones, pictures on the walls which tell a story and make us happy when we look at them. A mirror over the mantle reflects the warmth in the room.
Flickering scented candles. Snuggly woollen throws. Fresh flowers, books, lots of books, green leafy plants, and a log pile by the fire. A teapot on a tray beside a favourite mug. Home-baked goodies.
The picture I just described will look different to everyone who reads this. The fire may not be burning logs, it might be gas or electric. The sofa may have seen better days but reminds us of those who have used it to sit and chat, to laugh, to reminisce, to cry, especially reminding us of those we know will never sit there again. It may be covered with dog or cat hairs; it may have squishy cushions to relax on, it might creak and groan. The photographs may be encased in elegant ornate frames or be stuck to the wall with blue tac. The pictures on the wall could be children’s drawings, precious and irreplaceable or exquisite works of art.
Are the candles handmade and imperfect? Are they in old brass candlesticks which once belonged to Grannie? or could they be multi-wick affairs from a classy store? The throw, is it hand-knitted by a beloved relative? or luxurious cashmere? Is there a crystal vase filled with pale pink peonies or is it a jam jar filled with daisies and dandelions proudly presented to you by a child? Are the books well read and cherished or the latest coffee table books?
Does it matter? No. The picture is yours and yours alone.
Today has been long and difficult at times. Right now, I am visualising a luxurious candle-lit bubble bath, softly scented with essential oils. There is a pan of milk on the stove in preparation for a bedtime drink... I have some freshly grated chocolate shards to add to it and perhaps a dash of vanilla. But a quick shower to get rid of the remains of the day and a cup of instant hot chocolate would also create a sense of well-being and of comfort.
Over the past two years, we have spent more time in our homes than we could ever have imagined. Some people worked from home. Children were home-schooled. We were unable to hug loved ones, visit them, or be by their side often when they needed us most. Lockdown has made many of us change our priorities and appreciate many things we previously overlooked. Things we have taken for granted have been elevated to a level of importance they should have occupied all along perhaps.
It has been a tragic time for so many people. A life-changing time. I choose to believe that there will have been valuable lessons learned too, that we will take pleasure in simple things which have turned out not to be so simple after all but precious to us. Our homes became our sanctuary and have never been so important to us. A place to feel safe. A cosy place to shut out the world and to take pleasure in simple things like a cup of tea and a blanket tucked around us like a virtual hug. Call it hygge, call it cosy, or any other name you fancy it matters not. Just don’t take it for granted.
My book lamp, candles, soap, lavender bundles, and up- cycled milk churn.
Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
Jacqueline Heron Wray. March 2022