-Jenny Parkhurst, the Knoxville city mom's blog
“…it's a wholesome Danish concept of coziness…”
This last quote, which gets to the meanings I find most interesting, was written by Meik Wiking, in his book, The Little Book of Hygge, Danish Secrets for Happy Living. He is the CEO of Copenhagen's Happiness Research Institute, so he ought to know.
As a person who has always been involved with the feeling of a place or a situation, I see hygge as the embodiment of how physical space and simple, yet thoughtful actions impact and ultimately improve mood. In cool weather, I always want to be cozy, to have the fireplace or woodstove going, candles lit, the kettle on the stove, ready for tea. I always want things cozy, charming, and special. I want comfort, togetherness, wellbeing. This fits so well with the philosophy behind the ancient tea ceremony principles of humility, simplicity, subtlety, and quiet elegance in harmony with nature.
It's hard (and silly) to argue against these ideas. Who doesn't want to be warm and cozy in an inviting interior when the wind howls outdoors? Meik, as a researcher, finds his information and conclusions about hygge and happiness in data. Which seems sort of anti-cozy, but his conclusions are interesting, if kind of obvious. Consistently named the happiest people in the world, Danes say they experience the most hygge at home, 71% to 29%. He believes “the reason for the Danish obsession with interior design is that our homes are hygge headquarters.” He concedes that Danish winters are atrocious, so people want their homes as warm and inviting as possible.
The part of hygge concerned with interiors is what led it to be seen in America as a decorating trend rather than a change in behavior. If the basics of hygge are to get comfortable, companionable, and cozy, one needn't spend a lot of money. We already probably have a warm throw blanket or two lying around, tea, cocoa, and coffee fixings in the cupboard, and friends willing to come over for a cozy evening of board games or a movie and some comfort food and warm beverages. As with tea, a party is lovely, but making space and time for a calming cup of tea for and by yourself is every bit as wonderful.
We don't need the word hygge itself; we need to remember the principles. I've always strived for beauty and harmony in my home decor which includes coziness in the chillier months. Of course, we want a cast iron pot on the stove, bubbling with a long-simmering stew, of course I want to be baking a sweet loaf, so the house is filled with an enticing aroma, of course I want to sip a hot toddy by a fire. It's not rocket science. It's remembering to practice the things to make us feel soothed and at peace. Rose's January blog is filled with lovely ideas for cozy winter snacking and warming beverage recipes. My gift to you this month is not to give you a wonderful recipe for Danish pastry.* While fun to make and amazing to eat the step-heavy, methodical, yeast-raised sweet dough, it's even more fun to sit by the fire, with the cat on your lap, reading a favorite book, drinking tea instead.
*If you've never tried homemade Danish pastry, you owe it to yourself to try it. There really is nothing more delicious. If you are ambitious and would like to try it, leave your email address in the Comment section and I'll email you my friend Merlina's wonderful recipe. She breaks it down into clear steps and makes fresh Danish accessible to home bakers.