Many will have seen references to hygge in magazines and on TV programmes, but what it actually is may be something of a grey area; how to pronounce it may be an even greyer one!
Let’s deal with the pronunciation first. Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word and the English pronunciation is generally given as hʊɡ.ə or hoo-ga. Many think that the English word “hug” has its roots in the old Norse word “hygga”, meaning “to comfort”, which in turn comes from the word “hugr”, meaning “mood”, although it has to be said that the word “hug” has no known origin, so this may just be an association born out of the fact that the words sound similar.
A definition is more complicated than you may imagine, as hygge is a difficult word to translate into just one English word. The definition you most commonly see is “cosiness”, but to those who are keen hygge aficionados, it is so much more than that. In fact, it is an entire attitude to life. The Oxford English Dictionary definition is “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or wellbeing.” So as you can see, it’s not just a simple one-word translation. The writer and blogger Anna Lea West has suggested that a better definition would be “cosiness of the soul”.
Although it is a Norwegian and Danish word, and has the same meaning in both languages, it’s probably fair to say that the whole hygge concept is much more a part of Danish culture, and this attitude to life may well have contributed to Denmark being one of the happiest countries in the world. Although hygge is applicable to any time of year, it is perhaps the many dark, cold months that Danes experience during the long winters that developed this concept of warmth, cosiness, security, togetherness and being content.
A couple of years ago, our Christmas magazines were full of articles on hygge, telling us how we could bring a bit of this Danish phenomenon into our homes by buying candles, warm blankets, Scandi designed wall paper, hygge inspired blinds for the windows, and much, much more. But despite those magazine articles showing us what a hygge home should look like and the myriad adverts for all manner of hygge inspired tranklements, hygge is not actually a “thing”; it’s a feeling, a mood.
In many respects, hygge has a connection with mindfulness; it is about being in the moment, taking time to slowly appreciate what you are experiencing and enjoying that moment for all it brings. Taking up a new hobby or getting back into an old one can bring hygge into your life. Being kind to yourself, making time for those things that lift our spirits and not rushing about is all part of hygge. Lighting a few candles undoubtedly makes a room look lovely, but of itself will not bring hygge into your life; learning to appreciate what that candle brings and what it may signify, can.
These days our lives seem to be lived at such a fast pace it’s difficult to find the time to step back and appreciate life and all that that entails. Taking time over the simple things in life and making a celebration or ritual out of our ordinary day-to-day tasks can bring a feeling of calm appreciation and enjoyment. So, instead of a quick shower, see if you can’t make time for an indulgent bubble bath. Instead of throwing that tea bag in an old mug, why not get out the tea pot, use loose leaf tea and treat yourself to a cuppa in a lovely china cup? Even better, invite someone close to enjoy it with you. You never know, you may be on the road to finding hygge. As the Danish American writer ToveMaren Stakkestad once said; ’Hygge was never meant to be translated – it was meant to be felt’