The Danish word “hygge” is derived from a Norwegian word meaning “wellbeing”. And though feeling well is an important part of what hygge is about there is much more to this concept so dear to Danes. It is an outlook on life and an aesthetic approach to the home and entertaining for friends.
Part of the meaning is certainly the “cosiness” that hygge translates to in English. Danish winters are long and dark and when people are inside much of the time they wish to make the best of it. This can mean candlelight, a nice cup of good coffee and some pleasant music, even if you are alone. Hygge is about warmth and contentment, of being thankful for life’s beautiful, simple pleasures.
Hygge is a state of mind that speaks to the Danish soul. It is egalitarian and for everyone; men and women, young and old, rich and less rich. It often means being with a closeknit group of friends in a warm space to visit, drink a beer and relax. Hygge is about intimacy and closeness.
No part of the year is as ripe for hygge in Denmark as Christmas. It is a magical time. The Christmas season starts early, in November, with office parties, decorated streets and Christmas markets. House parties at Christmas time bring about maximum hygge. Delicious traditional Christmas meal like roast pork/duck with potatos, red cabbage and gravy and ‘risengrød’, hot rice pudding, for desert will give a sense of the gastronomical rewards of Christmas hygge.
But hygge is a feeling for all seasons. It is about relaxing and feeling at home. Self care, self love and warmth are central to hygge. Some people even say the word “hug” is related to hygge. It is a hug for yourself and those you love.
(Cover photo by student Lê Cát Phương Nam, Vietnam, Spring Term 2018)
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