The Hubbub About Hygge
For our tenth issue of Love Letters, we wanted to mix things up. Going into a new year, with new team members, we thought it was time to subvert the usual structure of our magazine, especially in the theme department. So for this issue, our theme is ‘Hygge’. If you’ve been following us for a while, you would know that this is unlike any theme we’ve had before. Now, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably never heard that word before. So, what is the hubbub about hygge?
Hygge (pronounced ‘hoo-guh) is a Danish word with no direct English translation; the closest one being cozy. It’s derived from the Norwegian term hugga which means to comfort or console (sounds a bit like hug, no?). In Denmark, there are a few words that were invented solely to create a sense of hygge. For example, the term hyggesokker translates roughly to ‘impossibly comfortable socks’ and the term hyggesnak refers to charming small talk.
Winter is the most hygge season, where we all bundle up with blankets next to a fireplace and just enjoy the coziness of our homes. Sipping a steaming cup of hot chocolate in your most comfortable warm wooly socks is as hygge as it gets. The bitter cold and ever-present darkness of winter can diminish our spirits and so, we search for comfort and coziness. However, the concept of hygge goes further than just coziness, hence the lack of an English translation.
It may seem like the concept of hygge revolves greatly around consumerism, but most Scandanavians agree that the true nature of hygge comes from community. Hygge is not just something you buy, it’s something you feel as you get together with friends to go on a walk, or finally start that puzzle that’s been sitting in its box on the windowsill all year. It’s the sense of warmth that comes from other people. It’s waving to a neighbor on the street, starting a craft project, or cooking a recipe you’ve never tried before with your family.
Danish author Louisa Thomson Brits writes “[Hygge is] a practical way of creating sanctuary in the middle of very real life” (The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well, 2017).
A big part of the conversation around this term is how to live a hygge lifestyle; but what does that really mean? In his 2016 book “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets To Happy Living”, Meik Wiking lays out what a hygge lifestyle looks like. Wiking focuses on the non-materialistic aspects of hygge. Hygge is a feeling that you cannot purchase; it must be found in the day to day. Wiking suggests not rushing through your day, taking time to enjoy little things like the warmth of a fire or gently falling snow out the frosted window.
He also suggests making your home as hygge as possible. Lighting candles, hanging affirming words on the fridge, and making sure there are plenty of blankets around are some ways in which you can bring the coziness of hygge home with you. Nothing in your space should bring you any discomfort. Comfortable clothes are essential, as well as food and drink that bring you a sense of fullness and warmth.
Wiking also advises to make space for your loved ones. Get the family or friend group together for a game night by the fire. Go on an outdoor bike ride. Exchange gifts for no reason other than just how much you love each other. Just make room for the people who matter the most to you.
So, if you were confused when you heard the announcement of our new theme, I hope this little piece cleared things up for you. It was certainly an illuminating experience for me. Hygge was something I’d never heard of before and it’s something we should all incorporate into our lives. Not just the cozy blankets and socks (although, I would not decline having more of those in my life), but the warmth and comfort that comes from community.
After all this research about hygge, I couldn’t help but think of this quote from the 1944 play No Exit by French playwright Jean-Paul Satre: “Hell is other people”. The NBC sitcom The Good Place subverted this quote in 2019 with their episode “Help is other people”, in which the main characters learn that in order to become better people themselves, they need to build bonds with others.
So this winter, go out and search for your own sense of hygge. Go for walks with your friends and snuggle up with some blankets and cocoa afterwards. And while you’re at it, maybe submit some work to our magazine so you can share your sense of hygge with readers all around the world. After all, hygge is other people.
Brits, L. T. (2017). The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well.
Wiking, M. (2016). The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living