I've recently seen a lot of mentions of hygge or discussions about trying to find and experience hygge. I'm guessing it's good, since we're all seeking it, but I (1) have no idea how to pronounce it and (2) have absolutely no idea what it's about. Before going further: the pronounciation is a holdup for me, if I can't say a word in my head when reading it/thinking it, I can't engage much further. So, first off, hygge is a Danish word, prounced "who-ga," per the YouTube video of a Danish woman going into great detail of how to pronounce it (click here if you want the full tutorial).
What is Hygge?
Per HyggeHouse, hygge is "a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary," that is "co[z]y, charming, or special." Hygge, a special moment or feeling, seems to be an ability to be present in the moment and enjoy simple pleasures in life. HyggeHouse notes that while there is no English word that fully captures hygge, a number of terms have been used to describe it, including: coziness, charm, happiness, contentment, security, comfort, kinship, and simplicity. In "Book of Hygge," Louisa Thomsen Brits explains it a bit more as the act of making "essential and mundane tasks dignified, joyful, and beautiful" while also mastering the art of "how to live a life connected to loved ones."
The Danes again and their happiness. It seems hygge is embedded in Danish life and culture, the word dating back to as early as the 16th century. In a region with many long, dark, and cold days, the concept was created to combat the boredom during the darkest and longest days of (a very long) winter. The idea of celebrating and enjoying a cup of coffee, having tea with friends, wearing warm socks by the fire, or having a meal with loved ones is quintessential Danish hygge.
Why the Hygge Frenzy?
The concept and history of the concept make sense to me, but my puzzlement is around what unleashed a frenzy of hygge hunters in the UK and US over the last couple of years. To say that it has been a popular trend would be an understatement - in 2016 it was a finalist for Oxford's word of the year, and in the fall of 2016 there was an onslaught of books published on hygge, including but not limited to: The Art of Hygge: How to Bring Danish Cosiness Into Your Life; Hygge: A Celebration of Simple Pleasures, Living the Danish Way; How to Hygge: The Secrets of Nordic Living, etc., etc., etc. The real fascination with hygge to me - besides it's obvious allure, what's not to like about cozy, contentment? - is how a very old concept so quickly and completely became a popular trend and, ironically, such a marketing tool.
The best I can tell, Justin Parkinson let the dam loose with an October 2015 BBC article, Hygge: a heart-warming lesson from Denmark, which had over a million reads on the first day it was published. What happened from there is a fascinating study in how trends grow and develop. The climate of the UK was clearly ripe for the idea - perhaps a correlation to being on the cusp of Brexit? - and publishers, marketers, and savy business minds seemed to latch onto this and run with it. The irony of the promotion and marketing of this concept of simplicity is hard to escape, but intriguing to trace. Sellers of candles, coffee, tea, socks, blankets, soft lighting, flowers, etc., etc. were quick to jump on this wagon and promote their best hygg-ing ideas. A loose study of the concept leads to the conclusion that the sudden onslaught of hygge seems to have been driven by marketers and publishers seeing and responding to an opportunity. But, that cynicism aside, the concept is a delightful one and a good addition to any culture. I'm happily jumping on the bandwagon (assuming there's any room left).
How to Hygge
Despite the aforementioned irony, I'm turning to the books and resources that have sprung up around hygge to figure out how to best incorporate it into my daily life (to minimize the irony, I will not make any Target lists or IKEA runs to better realize the hygge dream). As a starting place, Sherbet Lane offers a good pin with a general overview of hygge and some areas where you can begin to hygge (apparently, hygge can be a noun, verb, or adjective).
Just leaning heavily into the irony, BuzzFeed created an oh-so-American hygge checklist. I think we can all agree that it doesn't necessarily capture the essence of the movement, but it does give a quick snapshot of what experiencing or creating hygge does (and doesn't) look like.
And one more Americanized hygge list (because we love our action steps). I like this last one because it gives a wide range of ideas about how to incorporate hygge into everyday life. It's an easy list to pick and choose from for beginners.
I'm feeling better about this trend already: I can pronounce it, explain what it means, loosely discuss why it took off the way it did, and begin to incorporate it into my life. To hygge I go: less technology, more gratitude, more awareness about the spaces that I'm in, more intentional relaxation, and generally more awareness about the simple beauty in life. (Coming soon to comments: pictures of my attempts to create a more hygge-filled life.)