[This post was written for my dear friend Paige. Check out her blog here for excellent and REAL insight on all things motherhood!]
Each of us are currently facing a bit of a new reality - at home, alone with our family, for an extended period of time. Great to begin with but you might have begun to wear on eachothers nerves. But some are more prepared for this time than others.
You may have heard the word Hygge being thrown around a lot lately. You’ll definitely find it at your local bookstore and maybe on the lips of a hip interior designer. Hygge (hoo-gah) is a danish word that has become very popular because it is, at least in part, responsible for the Danes being some of the happiest people in the world (that and comprehensive welfare). For the Danes, however, it’s in their blood.
Hygge means something like “cozy” but so much more. In fact, in order to best translate hygge, it’s easiest just to paint a picture. So here are some examples:
You wake up late Christmas morning and walk into your living room wearing your new Christmas pajamas. Your little brother has carefully set your stocking on your favorite chair. In the air is the smell of the pancakes your mother makes every year and you take a sip of coffee, complete with a nip of Baileys.
It’s been ages but tonight, you had your University friends over for dinner. Together you prepared homemade pizza with your favorite toppings and spent the rest of the evening drinking wine and exchanging memories of the crazy things you’ve done together.
Starting to get the idea? So, could adding a bit of hygge into your life the recipe for having a great quarantine? Let’s see if we can break down a few key ingredients to make that a bit easier.
Danes are very community oriented. They learn multiple languages at a young age and there isn’t a Dane I know that doesn’t play some sort of organized weekly sport or activity. And I have seen many who have maintained friendships from kindergarden or highschool all the way into adulthood.
When I have heard the words “Ej, hvor er det hyggeligt” (meaning “Oh, isn’t this cozy!”), it has almost always been in response to some sort of interaction with others whether it's the family you are born into or the family you’ve chosen.
So, is there more in your life right now that you could be doing to connect with the people you know? Perhaps it’s time to Skype with the family you have abroad or write that letter to your penpal that you have been putting off. Do you normally get together with your bestie for popcorn and movies on Friday nights? Why not watch the same show together but over Facetime? THAT would be hygge.
Danes are known worldwide for their excellent design. Some of their most well-known work is in lighting and chairs and these items usually serve their purpose well. The mentality here is that if you are going to do something, do it right. And there is an element of ritual here. Traditions aren’t just for the holidays. Each of these pieces - effort, ritual, tradition - contribute to hygge. Invited over for a meal? You can expect the table will be set nicely with candles, there will be hors d'oeuvres, and the music will set the scene. Going to a friends for movies? You will be adorned with the softest blankets and pillows while the smell of popcorn fills the air. Boardgame night? On the table you won’t just find the boardgame but also all sorts of candies and maybe event a few drinks to make things interesting. (Did I mention Danes like to drink?)
The point here is that effort is put into what they do. Thought and preparation. And in return, memories are made.
So maybe tonight, you set the table with napkins, break out your grandmother's china, and turn the lights low. Or when you are getting ready for your Skype date, you drop off your friends favorite candy or baked good at the door ahead of time as a surprise. Or, if you happen to be social distancing on your own, instead of watching Netflix, you might grab that book you’ve been meaning to read, put on your comfy yoga pants, grab your favorite blanket and make yourself a cup of tea. You deserve it.
You may have noticed in my examples but food is a big part of life in Denmark. And there is a food for every occasion and a drink to go with each meal. Friday night with the friends? Taco’s and danish beer. Warm summer evening? Steaks, homemade potato salad, and red wine. (You know, that good bottle.) Day at the beach? A huge, dripping ice cream cone. Christmas coming up? Have the friends come over and bake 5 different kinds of cookies, each with cardamom in them. And don’t get me started about the holidays!
By now you should be starting to get a few idea’s.
So, while we can still shop freely, consider planning your meals this week. Enlist the help of your family too. And make it an event. Try those more challenging recipes. Have your kids stir the ingredients with their incredibly clean hands. Put the thought into it. Before you know it, the Covid-19 pandemic will be in our rearview mirrors. What kind of memories do you want to look back on?
Want to learn more about Hygge and why the Danes are so happy? I highly recommend this book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23282062-the-year-of-living-danishly