What is hygge?
If you haven’t heard of hygge, you must not follow the same Pinterest boards as me because hygge has been EVERYWHERE lately. Loosely translated, Hygge is a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being that is the reason Danish people are the happiest in the world.
I wanted to learn more about hygge than what is on Pinterest, so I checked out “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” from the library.
This book divides hygge into a few main points: Light, Togetherness, Food & Drink, Clothing and Home. There are other sections of the book, but these are the main points of hygge. There is also a “Hygge Manifesto” which A Cup of Jo describes in more detail.
Light is Exceptionally Important for Hygge
Good lighting is the most important part of hygge according to the book, even though later in the book it says that most Danes list “Hot Drinks” as the most hygge and light second. Danes prefer to burn fragrance-free candles and keep electric lights dim and spread throughout the room in pockets instead of one main room light. This means no harsh lighting and a relaxed atmosphere throughout the room.
Hygge Social Time
“Time spent with others creates an atmosphere that is warm, relaxed, friendly, down-to-earth, close, comfortable, snug and welcoming. In many ways, it is like a good hug, but without the physical contact. It is in this situation that you can be completely relaxed and yourself.” (p. 39)
Ways to have a “hyggelig” time with other at home is to host a book club, bible study, cooking club, weekly dinner, or weekly board game night. Other ways to have a hyggelig time but get out of the house could be going to a local trivia night, going on a hike with friends (yes even in winter), going sledding/skiing/snowboarding, going out for hot chocolate at a local coffee shop or for soup at a local small lunch spot. Winter is long and cold in Michigan so we have a lot of places you can go to feel hygge outside of the house.
Hygge Food and Drink
“Hygge is about being kind to yourself – giving yourself a treat, and giving yourself, and each other, a break from the demands of healthy living.” (p. 53)
Danes associate hygge with hot drinks more than candles, and in order of preference: Tea, hot chocolate, mulled wine (glogg), coffee. It’s honestly hard to not want a hot drink when it’s so cold outside, but I would add hot apple cider to the list of hot drinks Michiganders like. Hot apple cider with Fireball whisky is especially good.
Hygge-style food can be popular, but we like comfort food that’s a little fancy too. We like specialty farm-to-table local foods at restaurants and often demand options for specialty diets like gluten-free, vegan and dairy-free. There are a variety of restaurants that offer traditional comfort foods like ice cream, pizza and mac and cheese with vegan cheese or gluten-free.
Scarves are important and often fashionable but sometimes we also need the function of a balaclava to face the winter chills. Michiganders don’t like to let the winter interfere with what they want to do, so seeing someone out for a run while it’s snowing is not uncommon. We fully embrace the saying “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” and scarves are a crutial part of good winter clothing.
“You want to aim for a look that would be fitting for Karl Lagerfield’s funeral.” Neutrals and muted tones are popular everywhere in winter, so being limited to black doesn’t ring true for Michiganders. I don’t see an overabundance of black clothes and I think that could be because again, we don’t like to let winter get in the way of what we want to do. If we want to wear bright colors, winter isn’t going to stop us; we can get cozy bright-colored sweaters just as easily as we can get cozy black sweaters.
“Top bulky” means big sweaters and scarves with skinny jeans or leggings. This is one of my main problems with dressing in winter! My legs are always freezing if I’m not wearing fleece-lined tights because skinny jeans don’t offer that much warmth. I miss when it was socially acceptable to wear long underwear under jeans so you could walk somewhere and not freeze your buns off.
I love dressing with layers when I’m at home, or when I’m at someone’s house, but going out with layers is a PITA. Taking off layers in a restaurant is annoying and I try to avoid it as much as I can. There are smarter layers you can wear to reduce the amount that you put on and take off whenever you enter/exit a building.
Wool socks are a necessity for keeping your toes toasty. I like to wear them at home, and in my LL Bean boots. Wool socks are better than cotton ones because they insulate your feet better, and they absorb up to a third of its weight before it feels “wet”. Other random facts about wearing wool socks:
Wiking says that casual hair means high buns for Danes, but I find that casual hair in Michigan means double French braids. Why double French braids? Because they fit under a beanie so you can wear a hat around town and be able to take it off without a hair disaster.
Wiking lists out How to make your home more hyggelig:
Hyggekrog (a nook), fireplace, candles, things made out of wood, nature, books, ceramics, think tactile, vintage, blankets & cushions
Many homes in Michigan have a fireplace or wood-burning stove. If you’re concerned about the fire hazard of having an actual fire, a cute solution is to put an assortment of candles in the fireplace for a localized fire-safe area. Another way to avoid the actual fire is to have fake LED candles that look similar to real candles or use wax melts.
Michigan home décor already incorporates many hygge elements such as incorporating wood, nature, ceramics and vintage. Since we are surrounded by lakes, many homes incorporate “cottage style” which is naturally very relaxing.
“Hygge may be bad for capitalism, but it may prove to be very good for your personal happiness. Hygge is appreciating the simple pleasures in life and can be achieved with very little money.” (p. 141) Hygge is said to be the key to the Dane’s happiness, but it can be the key to anyone’s happiness if they chose it to be.
Wiking, M. (2017). The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.