Summer’s had its last hurrah, time to slip the waterproof cover over the BBQ, crank up the tog on the duvet, and face the fact that, unless you’re lucky enough to work for a Scottish company that opts in to taking a day off on St Andrew’s Day, there are no more bank holidays between now and Christmas.
Depressed? Don’t be.
Type in your location at timeanddate.com and they’ll generate a sun graph for where you live. Here’s one for London. As your cursor glides towards the year’s end, you’ll see the daylight hours wane, but don’t let this get you down. See it as an opportunity, because, in those darker days of autumn and winter, hygge is waiting with a warm, welcoming hug.
If your exposure to hygge has been limited to a cursory flick through recent articles in the lifestyle section/magazine of your newspaper-of-choice, you may be under the impression that hygge = candles. While candles can help you hygge (yes, it’s an adjective, a noun and a verb), an Ikea trolley overflowing with chunky wax cylinders doesn’t mean job done. You also have to master the art of relaxation, because filling your home with scented flames while still running around like a headless chicken isn’t hygge – the correct term for that is fire hazard.
So what is hygge? It’s a Danish word, it’s pronounced hoo-ga, and there’s no direct English translation. Although hygge is a Danish word, and the Danes excel at hygge, it’s not a concept that’s exclusive to Denmark. Norway practices it too – the word hygge has its origins in Norwegian – and other Europeans have their own words for hygge: for the Dutch it’s gezelligheid, the Germans call it gemütlich, and in Sweden it’s gemytlig. However, as hygge is a softer word – if you like, a more hygge word – we’ll let the Danes score the marketing points and leave it to them explain.
Here’s a quote from visitdenmark.co.uk … In essence, hygge means creating a nice, warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people around you.
Hmm, you may be thinking, sounds like an evening down the pub. And it can be that, IF it’s just a couple of drinks, and IF the pub has a cosy atmosphere. A swallow-fest where your feet stick to floor while the sound system’s woofers attempt to disintegrate your internal organs is not hygge. But the point is, there are opportunities for hygge all around us, and all of us have experienced hygge at some time, even if only in glimpses. The thing to remember is that hygge isn’t confined to sipping hot chocolate in a candle-lit room watching Poldark. That’s an easy win. The trick is to find hygge moments more often and to make them last longer.
Imagine this: You’ve found this YouTube video from Jamie Oliver’s chum Gennaro showing you how easy it is to make pizzas from scratch, and you decide that’s a great activity to keep the kids (or grandkids) occupied on a miserably wet weekend. They mix their flour and water, and push and pull their dough mix. Then while the dough is proving they watch a movie and you sneak some blitzed vegetables into the tomato sauce. Two hours later, they’re choosing their toppings, and soon they’re scoffing away while you empty the dishwasher.
Hygge? Unlikely. Maybe there was a little taste while you were all up to your elbows in flour, but mostly that’s a squandered opportunity. Ditch the DVD and the sneaky veg, and dig out a pack of cards and teach them the games you used to play as a kid (or find your old KerPlunk or whatever). And when the pizza’s ready, sit down and enjoy it with them.
Choose the first way, you’ve successfully occupied and fed your charges, but it’s primarily been an exercise in efficiency. Take the second option, and you’ve allowed yourself to enjoy being around them. And that’s where you’ll find hygge.
Hygge’s not just being in a nice place, doing nice things, it’s appreciating those things and places and being comforted by the experience as it’s happening. It’s a different way of living. Kind of like the Force, but instead of lightsabers it’s got candles.
And here’s how to make that pizza …