What is Hygge?
I recently discovered this concept on a Winter Board Pinterest search. My first thought was, “How in the world have I not heard of this?” Hygge (pronounced Hee-ga) is the Danish word that roughly means a “worship of coziness.” (According to Jack Lind in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel February 27, 1963 edition.) Web searches will crop up hundred of pictures of fireplaces, woolen socks, hot drinks, and sweet treats.
The Danes have a track record of being some of the happiest people in the word. Hygge is a multi-meaning and faceted concept that the Danish people live by throughout the year. Actions both during the working day, weekends, and holidays are guided by personal hygge principals. I, for one, love a Saturday morning with a blanket reading a book or watching Netflix. However, hygge is more than just these stolen moments.
Hygge in the American south
I recently finished Meik Wiking’s book The Little Book of Hygge. (Considered a little hygge textbook.) It made me wonder if hygge can be lived in the South, or if we actually have our own version. It is something I will not be able to answer in just one post, but would like to explore this year on My Sassy Starfish.
We do celebrate many of the same joys here with company, the sweet side of life, and slowing down the pace of life. However, we have such short and disappointing winters it is difficult to recreate the comforting atmosphere of a Danish cabin. Here is where I would like to compare and contrast some basic hygge concepts.
Looking at the Decadent side of life
The south’s love affair with sweet treats is not a secret. Many afternoons are spent enjoying cobblers, cakes, and cookies in the kitchen with grandmothers and aunts. We pass down dessert recipes like they are state secrets through are families. Nothing can beat a cup of coffee, a kitchen table, and a little old southern lady telling you her stories.
According to Wiking, Danes use cake in order to bring “casualness to meetings.” Cakes can be found both in and out of the professional setting in Denmark. Sounds like any big event at a southern place of work including retirements, weddings, and baby showers. Well any major or minor event in the south period.
Some like it Hot others like it sweet
To go along with the sweets, the Danes enjoy hot beverages with coffee being king. It does fit with the South. We prefer our tea cold and sweet. No family barbeque is complete without a pitcher tea with enough sugar to cause diabetes. Until, I went to university in Scotland I only had one friend who enjoyed hot tea. Since then, I have learned to enjoy hot tea as well of all varieties. I would say it is part of my nighttime hygge routine.
I, like many Americans, will always prefer coffee. I love the smell, and the feeling of the warm mug on my hand. I love the little whiff of steam that rises off the top. It is the fuel for lively conversations, and deeper thoughts.
Friends and friends that are family
The thoughts on friends, and time spent with friends is where the Danes and southerners differ. The feeling of hygge is created with a close group of friends and the feeling of comfort. Meik Wiking mentions in his book that a circle of friends in Denmark is a difficult thing to be inducted into. It is the opposite of the south.
The best thing about the South to me is the fact that you can become part of the family in an afternoon. Once you go to Maw Maws birthday party or supper after church you are in. It may seem that our friendships are not as serious, but it is not true. We build the concept of friends as family in our lives. We support each other and it is not abnormal to have half dozen friends in your phone you can call in an emergency.
It make gatherings even better as they are a big array of friends and family.
Winter is Here or is it?
Hygge speaking, winter is king. It is a concept the Danes live with every day, but Winter with it’s cold temperatures is the peak season. It is a shame because in the South we usually get about twelve days of winter period. I talked myself out of the Southern Shirt Company Sherpa jacket this year as an unnecessary expense. (Only to realize we would have a slushy snow day a few weeks later.) So much of the year is so sweltering is it difficult to imagine the need for wool sweaters and socks.
I find days cool enough for me to sit on the back porch is enough for me. Lounging in a breeze is something to enjoy just as much as a crackling fire. I would vote October as the most hygge month in Mississippi.
Life becomes simple outside. The stillness and quiet turns nature to the portal of hygge. A lot of Danish interior design includes natural light and wooden elements. I keep thinking of the deer head in daddy’s den. Also, all the early mornings southerners escape to hunt, fish, or sit in nature.
Don’t get me started on s’mores and campfires. Ed and I made a homemade fire pit for our tiny backyard. Many nights are spent enjoying company and the crackling fire. I also use the candles with wood wicks to create the feel of a fire place.
Hygge the new shabby chic?
This article is just a few of my initial thoughts as I learn more about hygge. I am seeing more similarities in my life and hygge concepts. It is not surprising the concept is beginning to catch! I saw gnomes, Danish designed decorations, and wooly patterned socks all over this past holiday season. I plan to explore this more throughout the year. Articles about candles, hot coffee, seasons, and other hygge thoughts are in the works.
So grab a blanket, light a candle, and join me!
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