Winter Joy the Danish Way

Being of a certain age we know that fashion comes and goes. However, if we keep hearing the same thing, albeit in slightly different ways, there has to be some element of truth in it.

I’m referring to the Danish Hygge, pronounced Hooga that appears to be the latest fad. It is discussed in the newspapers, magazines and even influence the style and design of the must have items for the festive season. But what exactly is it?

fireIt is always a challenge to translate words from one language to another. Words convey meaning that could vary significantly from one language and culture to another. The Danish concept of Hygge is one such example. In essence it is about cosiness and togetherness, feeling safe and contented. As the Danes are rated as one of the happiest people in the world there has to be something worth exploring in the concept of living the Hygge way.

Different cultures have words that say more or less the same thing. The Danish word Hygge comes from a Norwegian word meaning wellbeing. The German equivalent is gemütlichkeit and the Dutch call it gezelligheid, broadly speaking conveying the same meaning. The English translation is loosely referred to as cosiness, but needless to say there is a lot more to it than that. It is in fact a way of life. It reminds me of the French concept of joie de vivre.

Hygge does not merely represent a way of living during the winter, but something the Danes practice throughout the year. However, with 17 hours a day of darkness in the depths of winter, it helps to cope with the long, cold winters. Whereas the summer hygge way of life includes activities such as picnics and barbecues, outdoor concerts and festivals, other activities to commune with nature such as bicycle riding, walking and many other outdoor pursuits.

The theme which is repeated throughout all the discussions and definitions of the term Hygge is about creating a warm and inviting atmosphere to share with family and friends. Picture sitting in front of a cosy fire on a cold winter’s night, wrapped up in a woolly jumper, sipping mulled wine, hot chocolate, coffee or whatever tipple takes your fancy and you will begin to get a sense of what the word encompasses.

candlesIt is associated with family and friends getting together to share a meal, while away the time, exchanging ideas and talking about what matters in life, often accompanied by candlelight. Candles clearly play a significant role in living the Hygge way as the Danes are one of the biggest consumers of candles.

However, it is also time spent on one’s own engaged in activities that give one a sense of wellbeing whatever that might be. It reflects the notion of being kind to oneself and indulging in the pleasures of life. It is certainly not about extravagance but more about an indulgence in the small, pleasurable things as opposed to the expensive things of life.

I am reminded of a movement I encountered many years ago namely, The Slow Movement. Its philosophy reflects loosely the concept of Hygge and encourages its supporters to slow down the pace of our very hectic lives. Instead it encourages us not to focus on doing things faster but to do things better. The emphasis is on the quality over quantity in everything we do. From a mindfulness perspective it is also about being present in the moment, savouring the activity we are engaged in rather than racing ahead at speed to the next event.

Whatever word you wish to use, for me it is about cherishing oneself and appreciating the small pleasures of life that provide us with a sense of well-being and contentment.

Ignoring the commercialisation of the concept, I once again encourage you to take the time to look after yourself so that you will be able to look after others.

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