Hygge – pronounced “hoo-ga”, made the shortlist for the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2016. This Danish concept – observed especially during the winter months – focuses on creating a warm, cozy atmosphere where one enjoys the good things in life with good people. Hygge is all over the news in the U.S. this season, having made appearances everywhere from the New Yorker to NPR and Country Living. It is owed in part to the publication of several books on the subject, including CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge and “How to Live Danishly” and UK journalist Helen Russell’s The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country. Perhaps our most recent national obsession exists because of a need for stark contrast to the solemnity of our news. It provides us with a lighter topic to turn to over dinner. And it’s not just a topic for cultural critics. Over 1.8 million people have tagged their hygge scenes on Instagram with #hygge.
When you ask Danes what hygge really means, they will say it is about simple pleasures. It always involves good food, good friends, and cozy elements like a fire, warm blanket, slippers, or a burning candle. Hygge activities are about togetherness - so whether it’s a meal, movie, or board game doesn’t really matter. Considering Denmark is among the world’s happiest countries, we Americans should take note.
Hygge reminds me of simple meals enjoyed by the fire during winters on my family’s organic produce farm in Central Massachusetts. And while today I live in the city with my husband and co-founder along with our one year old son, what we truly value is time at home with friends and family, most often over dinner. For us, it’s a way to relax after a long day as entrepreneurs.
At home and at the office, you’ll find me in slippers, drinking a cup of tea or and warming the air with scented candles. It’s simple, for sure. But it creates the right atmosphere for us all to not get sucked up in the stress of our hectic daily schedule.
Hygge is so entrenched in Danish culture that it has a rather expansive set of vocabulary attached to it. They use terms that, while they don’t exist in English, you’ll find that they should!
- Hyggelig - The quality of being hygge
- Hyggekrog - A cozy nook for reading and relaxing (mine includes an armchair and fun pillows)
- Hyggebukser - Cozy sweatpants you don at home but would never wear in public
Here are some of my favorite hyggelig foods and drinks. I would love to hear about yours!
- Traditional Medicinals Ginger Tea or Harney & Son’s Peppermint Tea
- Mulled Cider
- Turkey Chili
- Cranberry Stovetop Oatmeal (frozen cranberries, steel-cut oats, hemp and flax)