What to do when living in a region cloaked in darkness for half the year? Throw pity parties and complain, or add warmth – people, textures, hobbies and concepts – to ensure those months are not merely bearable, instead enjoyable.
From fika to hygge, the Scandinavians know a thing or two, when it comes to surviving the biting cold temperatures and darkness in the winter months. Please note follow up post in June, detailing Mid-Sommer (Summer Solstice) festivities. Oh how I adore the Scandi way of life!
To me, applying hyggelig to everyday scenarios is as natural as the yearning for a thirst quenching beverage, when parched. As I have Scandinavian family and friends, these principles have been woven into the tapestry of my life since my early years. Consequently I didn’t struggle with grasping hygge, yet struggled with attempting to explain ‘how to hygge’.
Delighted that it is the latest oh-so-fabulously-Danish way that we have adopted in recent years, and the trove of oh-so-fabulous-Danes to initiate the uninitiated…
* An import from our Scandinavian friends, the Danes consider hygge a way of life, a lifestyle, if you will.
* Hygge needn’t be complicated. For the uninitiated, grab a book, make some tea and dig in.
It seems like we can all use a little hygge in our life right now. An import from our Scandinavian friends, the Danes consider hygge a way of life, a lifestyle, if you will.
A contrast to Marie Kondo’s lifestyle, which extols the virtues of dispensing with a cluttered home in favor of clean spaces filled with serenity and calm (detailed in her widely popular book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up), hygge favors creating a cozy space within your soul.
According to Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge, hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. “It is about being with people we love,” adds Wiking. “A feel of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.”
Wiking might know a thing or two about hygge. He’s also CEO of The Happiness Research Institute, a Denmark-based independent think tank whose mission is to inform decision makers of the causes and effects of human happiness, make subjective well-being part of the public policy debate and improve the quality of life for citizens across the world.
Danes associate hygge with creating a warm atmosphere and that includes everything from the soft glow from a candle or a toasty drink, like a cozy, classic hot toddy. This one includes one part Dewar’s 12-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky, three parts hot water and one tea bag. Add honey and lemon juice, to taste.
Hygge recipes tend to lean more comfort food, but think more of a slow-cooked stew than heavy food for the sake of heavy food. Wiking includes recipes for Skibberlabskovs, Braised Pork Cheeks in dark beer with potato-celeriac mash, Boller I Karry, glogg, and snorbod to help readers get their hygge going.
Just released this month is Signe Johansen’s HOW TO HYGGE: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life. A writer and cook who grew up in Norway, Johansen trained at Leiths School of Food and Wine in London and worked in several of the UK’s top restaurants. Her book couldn’t have come at a better time. In Chicago, where I’m based and currently writing this piece, we’ve had to survive without sunlight for eight consecutive days. It’s the perfect time to be both introspective as well as enjoy the company of friends by sharing a meal or cup of coffee.
“If mindfulness is about the self and looking inward,” Johansen writes, “Hygge is about being sociable and looking outward; taking pleasure in the simple things in life.”
Her book is filled with both beautiful images of meals and tips for creating a “Hygge home,” as well as ideas for being active outdoors, cultivating self-sufficiency and taking a break during the workday to socialize and enjoy coffee and a sweet treat.
Since much of the idea around hygge surrounds sharing meals with others or cooking and baking delicious meals, she offers a collection of recipes including her take on the ultimate grilled cheese or malty banana chocolate chip walnut muffins.
Hygge needn’t be complicated. For the uninitiated, grab a book, make some tea and dig in.
As Johansen writes in the introduction of her book: “Make yourself at home. Perhaps put the kettle on for a cuppa, or pour yourself a Scotch and curl up somewhere you can be left undisturbed for a little while. The world of Nordic hygge awaits.”
I’m ready to welcome the world of hygge. Are you?