I am all about comfort. Ever since I can remember, being comfortable in my clothing and in my surroundings were paramount to my wellbeing. Therefore, it stands to reason that when I heard about the Danish concept of hygge, I was immediately on board.
Hygge (pronounced hyoo-guh) translates to cozy and comfortable, feelings of wellbeing and contentment. The word itself comes from the same root as the word “hug.” Think thick, soft socks, plushy blankets and the soft glow of candles.
I was on my way home from the store, when I thought of hygge. It’s cold tonight, with light falling snow, and as I was driving along slowly, trying not to slide on the slippery side streets, I was looking forward to getting home, taking off my shoes and putting on my comfy, pink slippers, and making sweet, hot tea while I wrote.
I think that I was practicing hygge long before it became trendy — I just didn’t realize it. The first principle element of this is candles. The Danes prefer non-scented ones, and they’re not just for the bedroom and the bath. They are also lit in the boardrooms and in the classrooms. I have candles in most rooms of my house — the bathroom, the kitchen, living room, the bedroom and the office. Often my writing ritual consists of lighting a candle and saying a little prayer, from our prayer book. “Author of language and light, help me to use words as You have, to cast light into dark waters and draw out justice and truth.”
Speaking of candles, Jews do candles. In addition to my day-to-day candles, I light candles for Shabbat on Friday nights and candles for yahrzeit (remembrance of a deceased loved one), as well as on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Let’s also not forget the candles for the eight nights on Hanukah. But I digress.
I also have, what my husband calls “an unhealthy obsession” with soft blankets and coffee mugs. We had to downsize our mug collection, giving some away to the Goodwill store and storing others in the basement cabinets. Last year, on our wedding anniversary, I got a beautiful, heavy, cream-colored coffee mug with the image of Denver’s Union Station etched on its side. It is one of my favorite objects. My children, for my birthday last year, gave me a fuzzy, soft, soft, soft blanket with images of our New Zealand trip on it. I also have a ton of throw blankets, so if a guest gets chilly, I can throw them a throw.
I’ve already written a whole article about my comfy socks. All right, I’ll admit it — I might have a little sock hording problem. I have a drawer for just white athletic socks, and a draw for multi-colored, fuzzy winter socks. When it’s super cold outside, I have been known to wear two pears of socks in my tennis shoes.
Most Danes would consider hot drinks to be another main component of hygge. It’s true that I do enjoy drinking the smell of coffee, as in it is so sweet and white, there is really no coffee taste to it. But one of my favorite beverages has been and is, hot, sweet tea. I have a cabinet full of teas, from green to black to white, from non-caffeinated to double bergamot to black breakfast tea. Channeling my inner Jean-Luc Picard, I am currently sipping Earl Gray. Hot.
Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have no power in this world.” The Danes would counter with, “Comfy clothes make the hygge.” Since I live in yoga and sweat pants, t-shirts and sweatshirts (much to my mother’s dismay), I walk the walk with my Scandinavian brethren. While I do dress up for synagogue and going to the symphony or a dinner party, even my dressy leather boots are comfortable.
What I and other practitioners of hygge have in common is our love of cold, snowy, or rainy climates. This lifestyle is much more difficult to maintain in the Caribbean or Mediterranean. The people living in tropical paradises probably have their own version of hygge, I just don’t know what it is.
It’s time to wrap this up, because it’s getting late and I want to go to bed, to snuggle deep down under my thick, warm quilt, which, of course, has a blanket on top of it.