Denmark. Home to fjords, Vikings, lutefisk... and hygge.
Pronounced "hoo-gah," hygge doesn't have a straightforward English translation. Scandinavia Standard describes hygge as:
Hygge is about cosiness and surrounding yourself with the things that make life good, like friendship, laughter and security, as well as more concrete things like warmth, light, seasonal food and drink. Hygge embodies a feeling of comfort, contentment, and well-being through simple and everyday experiences. It encompasses a range of feelings and experiences related to coziness, togetherness, and an appreciation for life’s small pleasures.
If there's anyone I trust to figure out warmth and cosiness, it's people who live where the sun sets at 3:30 in the winter.
Nature tells us that winter is the time for rest and renewal. Trees and grass go dormant, animals hibernate, and the weather is dark, cold, and gray.
It's a time for rest, reflection, and renewal for us too. Rather than fight it, I think our Danish friends have the right idea. Embrace the slower time of year, simplify expectations, and take the opportunity for a little extra downtime.
We all have our own path to hygge, but for me, it hits when I sit down with a warm drink in front of a fire with a good book, good company, and a cold wind blowing outside. It also hits when I wrap my hands around a hot coffee mug on a cold morning. And when my breath plumes out in the cold air when I step outside for an outdoor workout.
Tom Hanks proved that humans have a primal connection to fire. It scared away predators, kept us warm, and cooked food that could otherwise kill us. Having candles or an oil lantern around cut through the darkness in a way electric lights never can. Fire seems to awaken something deep inside, connecting us with ancestors sitting around a fire from cavemen to the ancient Greeks to westward settlers in the US.
Even if you never experience a mid-afternoon sunset, there's no better time to find your hygge than after the manic sprint through the holidays.
Happy holidays to you and yours, and enjoy the hygge.