By now you probably have heard of Hygge. Articles in the New York Times and the New Yorker have extolled its virtues. So have bloggers including one of my favorites, Monique at La Table de Nana, in her New Year's post. Susan Branch wrote of it in great detail in her holiday post.
The term comes from the Danish and while there is no word-for-word translation, it conveys a feeling of coziness and conviviality.
Snuggled up by the fire with hot cocoa? Hygge. Wearing your favorite fleecy top and cozy socks or slippers? Hygge. Reading a great book with the dog or cat at hand? Snuggled under a cozy quilt? Hygge.
Pronounced "hoo-guh," think about the stranger who says hello to you, wanting nothing in return but a smile. (Like my New Year's walk at the Ditch!).
Think about comfort food. Meatloaf. Home baked bread. Chicken pot pie. Steaming pots of soup. All of which sounds like dinner with Rick and all of which is Hygge.
I quote the New Yorker article above here: "Louisa Thomsen Brits, the author of “The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art
of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection,” calls it “a practical way of
creating sanctuary in the middle of very real life” and “a cure for
SAD”—seasonal affective disorder—“in book form.”
Again from the New Yorker: "Helen Russell, a British journalist who wrote “The Year of Living
Danishly,” defines the term as “taking pleasure in the presence of
gentle, soothing things,” like a freshly brewed cup of coffee and
cashmere socks." I might add real maple syrup, baking and your favorite pet to the list.
Last year my guiding word was "Listen." I listened a lot and I heard birdsong, waves on the beach, winds in the pines. But more than frequently, I didn't like what I heard. I am thinking this year of having two words. "Hygge" and "Action." "Action," because I need to "do" and not just "think," whether it is complete creative projects, meet a goal or work to change the world. And "Hygge" because maybe it's yet another way to get back to my heritage, this time on my Dad's side. And besides, what's not to love about cuddling up by the fire, knitting, purring cats and hot tea?
I have a lot of Danish in my heritage -- my great grandfather came over in the 1800s from Copenhagen with his wife, so my grandmother was first generation American from Danish parents. While I've never been there, I often read studies that say that the Danish are among the happiest people in the world. Their taxes would kill you -- they're very high, about 45 percent. But they actually get something from it. Time for a very hygge-like cookie!
According to an article in US News, Education is free -- there is no tuition, even at university and each student receives a $900 stipend from the state. The parental leave system is the most generous in the world and there is free quality healthcare which reduces risk and promotes better health. They are working actively to combat climate change and actively support both the employed and unemployed with development or job-assistance opportunities.
Now, one can argue till the cows come home about what is in part a welfare state and whether or not it is a good thing. But Denmark takes care of its people far better than the U.S. does. The cost of living is pretty high. But when we get something from it, I don't mind paying. And we can learn a lot from their example.
And people are happy. The government works.
And to be honest, I love hot chocolate by a fire. I love cozying up in the winter when a storm is blowing and feeling safe and warm. I love holding the Lizzie, even though she would prefer I not. And I love to bake and cook and make things and savor Rick's bread, home made and so delicious.
I feel compelled to take action this year. To be the change I want to see in the world and work to facilitate it. To not be passive but productive. To create, to write, to experience, to do. Rather than following like sheep, I'd prefer to knit from the wonderful wool those sheep (and llamas!) provide.
I have a great need to cozy in these days -- and not just because of the weather. I long to really reflect on this beautiful life that I have, the happiness I feel and the things that bring happiness to me. Family, friendships, love, warmth, joy. Hot tea or cocoa on a cold day (and this morning it is 6-F and the windchill below zero).
So, this year, it is two words. The "doing" word and the "being" word.
Here's to hygge and action. World, I am ready to take you on -- and to take care of myself, too.
Delighted to be linking this week to Share Your Cup, where you will find loads of wonderful links and tons of inspiration!
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