Have you heard of this Scandinavian word? It’s pronounced ‘hooger’ and there isn’t an equivalent term in English. It’s an approach to winter that is rather different to the British strategy of simply tolerating its greyness, moaning about the weather and longing for Spring.
Hygge is about treating indoors like a cosy cave and embracing small treats and pleasures at this time of year.
It’s a sort of wintry self care…
Down with deprivation. For many January heralds a strict regime involving very little cake. The Danes don’t have any truck with this. They feel that winter itself is challenge enough and eating and being merry continues after Christmas. Eating carbohydrates releases serotonin so baked treats bring cheer. Add some warming stews and a glass of mulled something and Blue Monday (which I feel should be renamed Bun Monday) becomes something to look forward to.
Daylight is scarce during Scandinavian winters. We may have more hours when the sun is above the horizon here in the UK but the thick flat cloud often makes it feel like dusk for much for the day in January and February. Feel-good chemicals are released in our brains when we’re outdoors in daylight so for many of us winter brings an inevitable mood droop. Candles and lanterns are not quite the same as having our nearest star shining brightly in your living room but the smallest tealight on a windowsill casts a glow that can cheer even the dreariest afternoon. In Denmark lighting candles and lanterns is an integral part of hygge as they make indoors welcoming and snug. My friend Deborah has spent time in Scandinavia and lighting a flame (or five) before visitors arrive is crucial – a lack of candles or lanterns is seen as a lack of welcome.
I confess to a small candle-lighting ritual each evening at the moment. Once they’re are lit we nestle in.
Swaddling and cosiness. Wrapping yourself in blankets and quilts adds to the joy that cake and candles bring. Why wear clothes when you can wear a duvet too? I am tempted by this excellent garment.
Here Lamby and Biscuit are embracing piggy hygge by making a den out of wool.
Making. It may not be mentioned in the recent flurry of newspaper and radio articles about the Scandinavian approach to winter but for me craft is crucial during the darker months and is part of the seasonal nesting that embodies hygge. It soothes away the dreary feelings caused by crappola weather and results in cosy garments that keep the chill from fingers and necks. The gentle repetitive movements, the feel of the soft wool and the aesthetically beautiful shapes made by the stitches mean that crochet as lifting to the spirits as any cake or cluster of candles. All 3 together whilst nestling under a handmade blanket is a recipe for January joy.
Have you been embracing hygge (and perhaps not put a name to it until now)?
I’d love to hear about it.