With six new books out this winter covering the topic of ‘hygge’, it’s no wonder everyone is talking about it. But do we really know what this Danish word means, and how do we do it? Here’s where we come in. We thought we’d give you a quick explanation of hygge, and some simple ideas for how to bring it into your home, whether you live in Scandinavia or Seattle.
The word ‘hygge’ doesn’t have a literal translation, which is why it has proven tricky to explain to non-Scandi folk. It’s best characterised by feelings and mood rather than a direct object: think coziness, warmth, contentment and you’ll be pretty close. Hygge is something that we can all attain, regardless of wealth or background. It embraces the simple, gentle things in life and encourages us to notice with full intent the things we are surrounded with. It is about finding pleasure in the presence of soothing things, about connection with others, belonging and ritual.
The reason the Danes are so good at hygge is because they have looooong dark winters to endure, and this is a way of bringing light and comfort into the harshest of months. It has been associated with winter for this reason, but you can ‘hygger’ at any time of day or year. It’s a life-enhancing, happiness-spreading thing, which is why we wanted to give you some hygge-bringing hints. Because we all need a little contentment and gentleness as the holidays approach, right?
Our elemental connection with fire goes back thousands of years, and it still plays a vital part in creating heat and light. An open fire or wood burner creates an immediate focal point for a room and radiates warmth and comforting crackles. This is an essential aspect of hygge, and if you can’t make a fire at home try to have one outdoors. Bring blankets and marshmallows to toast.
The hygge look is all about layers of natural fabrics. Create a contrast in textures with a linen cushion against a snuggly cashmere throw, wear chunky woollen bed socks and a flannel gown, dress your bed in soft linen sheets and drape with a thick blanket, put a sheepskin rug on a hard wood floor. Invest in a top quality pullover that you can wear with anything all through winter (like this rather fabulous number from Toast).
Light, light, light
Candles are a vital part of any hygge toolkit, creating a gentle glow and calming flickery shadows. Dot them around your home, bringing light to dark corners, set a thick pillar candle on the table and eat pancakes for breakfast around its light, take a long bath surrounded by tea lights and scented candles. Lighting a candle is such a quick and easy way of adding some joy to your home, don’t wait for a special occasion. Invest in some decent ones, preferably chemical-free, to ensure they burn well and for plenty of time.
Winter is a time for hibernating, slowing down and stocking up on energy depleted by the darkness and cold. Make space for some quiet time, whether a family walk or cup of steaming coffee on the stoop. Notice the sounds around you, be in Nature whenever you can, take up a craft like knitting, savour happy moments. Before you fall asleep, take a moment to be grateful for any good things that happened during the day.
Hygge is essentially a communal feeling to be shared with friends and family. Invite friends over for a casual kitchen supper, drink mulled wine wrapped in blankets with your beloved, make hot toddies for your children and drink together in front of the fire (just heat some milk with a pinch of cinnamon and ginger, add a dollop of maple syrup, then froth with this genius stove top frother), or watch a film with a friend curled up on the sofa with hot water bottles. Offer guests food or drink and let them make themselves at home. Encourage children to share their toys and spaces with others.
Hygge is not about money or status, and requires minimal input. But you get massive returns. Go get your hygge on!
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