What does Hygge mean to you?
This year a Danish word was shortlisted for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year. Yes, ‘hygge’ (pronounced ‘hyoogah’ or ‘hoogah’) has been embraced, cuddled and positively snuggled by the majority of the English-speaking western world – well, those who tend to live in the colder nations, anyway.
Unless you’ve been in the Australian jungle or on the International Space Station for the past 6 months, you probably already know exactly what I mean by ‘hygge’. But try and sum it up in one sentence and it gets tricky. Even those clever word buffs who put 'hygge' on their shortlist actually struggled to define or translate the word itself accurately. Their attempt was as follows:
Hmm. So if the term is so tricky to pin down, why or how has hygge caught the imagination of so many here in the UK? There are hygge subscription boxes and hygge books, hygge blogs and gift sets… Even the sofa companies are describing that ‘cosy-night-in feeling.’ And I think that’s exactly it. Hygge seems to be based on a feeling rather than a singular tangible concept. It taps into our emotions and the notion of savouring what is simple and wholesome, slowing down in a fast world to spend time with the people we love.
So what feeling does hygge conjure for you?
What defines hygge in your life?
For me that ‘feeling’ starts every year when the clocks turn back and all I want to do is live in Downton Abbey and ensconce myself in a window seat (that they would doubtless have in the library there) with a good book or my notebook. It doesn’t help that I grew up in Downton country in the gorgeous Vale of York and my Grandma lives in Ripon where Lady Mary or the Dowager would often run errands. Our Notebook Love packing centre is now based there (Yorkshire, alas not Downton itself) and I love any excuse to visit. Who wouldn't with this view?!
- J.K Rowling said, “The idea of just wandering off to a café with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me is just bliss.” That’s hygge. It's writing, dreaming, looking longingly out the window (there's the window seat again). It's planning, hatching, noting and listing, mastering and creating.
- It’s highlighting the Radio Times at Christmas and watching movies every day.
- It’s a feeling of home - without interruptions of the outside world, electronics, social media, glaring screens and emails from work.
- It’s tickling the ears of the dozing dog I don’t have yet.
- It’s that feeling when the furniture is moved around to fit the Christmas tree in and the whole room is transformed.
- It’s good coffee.
- It’s cuddling with my husband or nursing our four-month-old. It’s enjoying the necessity to stop or slow down for the better things in life.
Did you know?
The word has no proven origin but it is speculated that ‘hygge’ comes from the Norwegian word: Hug: ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: probably of Scandinavian origin and related to Norwegian hugga ‘comfort, console.’
And speaking of which, my lovely other half, Mr. Notebook Love himself, is called Consol meaning 'comfort' or 'consolation'. Perhaps his name subconsciously derived from the time his family spent in another Scandinavian country, Sweden. He’s originally from DR Congo but his dad was ambassador there when he was 4 years old. When hygge came on our radar earlier this year, Consol casually mentioned how his family would often pile duvets, cushions and beanbags into the living room and they’d all spend the night in each other’s company, listening to music, talking, cosying then sleeping. Bliss! We need to reinstate that into our family life today!
Meanwhile, I’ll work on the Abbey window seat and put a puppy on my Christmas list.
Happy hygge everyone. And Merry Christmas. Throw another log on the fire, tickle the ears of your dog if you’re lucky enough to have one and cosy up for Christmas.
- Kate Efomi