The Danish word ‘hygge’ has no single, literal translation, but its baldest definition is ‘coziness’. According to ‘The book of Hygge’ by Louisa Thomsen Brits, the word covers ‘a feeling of belonging and warmth, a moment of comfort and contentment’. Her aim is to teach us the Danish art of happiness.
But can the Danish really teach us how to live?
As a Scandinavian, although not Danish, I have worked with and know the Danes and their mentality quite well. When in Denmark, I must admit I have the feeling of ‘hygge’ which means I am reminded to slow down, to dwell and savor rather than rush and spend and to connect with place and with one another.
The Danish Art of Happiness
If you’ve ever sat in an Arne Jacobsen egg chair, been beguiled by the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen, or enjoyed a piping hot æbleskive at a county fair, you’ve had a taste of Danish culture. It’s a kind of lighting the fire in winter every day or having a light at our breakfast table and sharing ‘hygge with family or friends.
According to the author, when you curl up by the fire with a blanket, or have a simple meal with friends, that is hygge. When you acknowledge the sacred in the secular, or focus on people rather than things, or when you express love through small gestures, that is hygge.
Hygge is a hot topic around the world
Despite being somewhat amorphous, hygge has become a hot topic around the world. A few minutes of research turns up a number of books that tout their hyggelig credentials, including multiple adult coloring books, collections of cake recipes, crafts, and games, and even a book about knitting Nordic sweaters “to keep you cozy.”
The climate play a role in hygge
The Danish prominence of pyromania is probably due to the Scandinavian climate. In her book, The Year of Living Danishly, Helen Russel writes: “We have a saying in Denmark that there is no truly bad weather, just bad clothes.” You might twist this saying around many Danish situations.
The Book of Hygge is an invitation to welcome abundance and contentment into your life. It is a call to live more fully by focusing on what moves you.
Material things often do play a role in hygge and can be used to invoke and cultivate a hyggelig feeling — for example, a mug of hot chocolate on a chilly winter night, a natural wood table worn smooth by caring hands, or, yes, a knitted woolen sweater. The valorization of the cold is possibly the most distinctive feature of the region, and certainly the least exportable.
With beautiful full-color photographs and instructive meditations on relishing the everyday, The Book of Hygge is your essential guide to cultivating the coziness that has made Danes the happiest people in the world.
And for those of us whose basic needs are met, why not indulge in the physical pleasures of hygge?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Louisa Thomsen Brits was born in Uganda to a Danish mother and English father. Louisa is a mother of four, an amateur naturalist and wild swimmer. She has been a radio restaurant and arts critic and a tribal belly-dance teacher. Louisa is interested in the overlooked details of ordinary lives, liminal places, community and craft. She writes about the art of living, the nature of things, our common life and the rhythms and rituals that unite and define us all.
“The most poetic of the hygge books. I found myself repeatedly returning to its list-like incantation of hyggeligt habits,” wrote Louisa Kamps in ELLE magazine.
The Danish Art of Happiness, written by Tor Kjolberg