Quote source: Helen Russell, The Year of Living Danishly
Capping off a year where it seems like nearly every media outpost (including our own Star Tribune, Pioneer Press and Fox 9 Morning News) was either doing a story on it or proclaiming it the “lifestyle trend” of the moment, HYGGE was officially added to The Denmark Canon’s (danmarkskanon) values list after a nationwide online poll conducted by the Culture Ministry. In December, Time magazine pronounced it “the Nordic trend that could help you survive 2016.” That same month, “hygge” was shortlisted for the Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year. All of this international hubub surrounding hygge didn’t exactly go unnoticed in Denmark. Articles in the Danish press are calling hygge Denmark’s newest successful export and doing their own wordsmithing to explain a concept that has been passed down generation to generation by experience.
Hygge has been so prevalent, in fact, that we could stock a nice little hygge-nook / hyggekrog complete with hygge-scented candles, and books & articles just about hygge. Want to mash up two hot trends at once? You can color the pages of your very own hygge coloring book. Not sure how to encourage hygge in your home? The UK HouseBeautiful has a guide for you (to be fair, while this article does talk about the “stuff” of hygge, it gets at describing the concept better than most). Want to experience hygge with your ipad or tv? Danes of a certain generation would classify that as a no-no. But a few Danish outposts have created videos containing ‘person on the street’ interviews that show the digital generations may not agree with their elders.
As anyone who’s had a discussion about hygge knows, if you ask 5 Danes what it is, you’ll likely get 10 answers. It’s a concept that’s at once culturally widespread, deeply personal, and lacking a direct translation into any other language. We can’t always explain what it is, we may not be able to help you pronounce it (HOO-GAH? please… no.), but we certainly know it when it happens. The recurring question we’ve been hearing these days is “Why now?” It’s not like New Nordic Cuisine, where a manifesto and a new crop of stellar restaurants made a sudden splash over a decade ago and then proceeded to take the world by storm. The concept of hygge is not new. So why now? Why indeed. Perhaps it all comes down to how our most basic desires connect with and feed our happiness.
The Pursuit of Happiness
As a society, Americans are a bit hardwired to pursue happiness. We learn from an early age that it’s codified in the Declaration of Independence as one of the big three unalienable rights; right up there with life and liberty. So it’s perhaps no surprise that the country that keeps topping the world rankings for happiness catches our eye. The inevitable deconstructing of how someone ELSE seems to have achieved something is also something we learn to do early on. And do we ever want to achieve happiness. This pursuit of happiness has been fueling a gangbusters self help book & article industry for decades. Which brings us right back to why we now have a bumper crop of materials on hygge, and why most of them focus on the trappings of it.
It’s easy to describe the candles. Add a couple pairs of feet wearing warm woolen socks in front of a roaring fire and and you have the stock photo that pops up most often in print articles these days.
For a different visual, take a peek at a painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection. It shows an after-dinner gathering of friends (that’s Danish artist P.S. Krøyer in the middle); that’s the epitome of hygge.
My Friends, Viggo Johansen, Danish, 1861-1935, Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917
The Happiness Connection
One of the my favorite definitions of hygge comes from Danish Design guru Morten Georgsen who, in his interview with UK HouseBeautiful, said Danes “love the state of mind – hygge – because it’s peaceful, friendly and a fantastic stress reliever. It’s our zen, we breath it, almost live from it. Maybe it’s one of the reasons that the Danes year in, year out are ranked the happiest people in the world.”
American psychologist Dr. Steven Reiss has proposed that happiness, instead of being fueled simply by maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain, is driven instead by a combination of 16 basic desires. In his view, any one person’s peak “point of happiness” is governed by how they embrace and prioritize these different desires. An experience that aligns best with a person’s most valued basic desires will naturally better feed happiness. We can wonder then if it is no coincidence that a number of these basic desires-acceptance, curiosity, eating, family, honor, order, romance, social contact, and tranquility-show up time and again in definitions of hygge.
Just finishing up talking Hygge with Fox 9’s MA Rosko in the Danish American Center’s Kaffestue (1/9/2017).
At the end of the day, hygge celebrates connections (with family, friends or even just ourselves), underscores our need for acceptance, thrives in an atmosphere of tranquility (hello candlelight) and order, and sates our hunger (with a meal, a home baked treat, or good conversation).
We live in a time with a seemingly ever-quickening pace of life where better, faster, more are the watchwords of the day. The answer to “Why now?” may well be as simple as “Why not?” There’s never been a better time for a trend that (though marketers and big brands would have you believe otherwise) has no real price tag attached. You can slow down and craft a hyggelig experience with the stuff you already have at home in the company of people you already know.
Want to talk about hygge? We’d love to know what you think about the #hyggehubub or what hygge means to you. Weigh in on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments below. And watch this space for a few upcoming #hyggehistorier – short stories on our own hyggelig encounters.
FOR FURTHER READING
Want to fall down a rabbit hole reading about hygge? Here’s a list of all the linked books & articles (and the occasional person, place or thing) in order of appearance above. It’s not an exhaustive list. We have, for example, opted to not link to the New Yorker article (so #nothyggelig) that made our blood boil.
Helen Russell, The Year of Living Danishly, April 12, 2016
Kim Ode, Minnesotans are getting ‘hygge’ with simple joys of Danish coziness, Star Tribune, January 14, 2017
Chris Hewett, Danish “hygge” is the perfect antidote to winter gloom, Twin Cities Pioneer Press, January 13, 2017
Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes, How to find comfort in the bleak midwinter: hygge, Washington Post, January 22, 2016
Amelia Diamond, Coziness is Trending for 2017 (We Need it) manrepeller.com, December 27, 2016
Penelope Green, Move Over, Marie Kondo: Make Room for the Hygge Hordes, New York Times, December 24, 2016
Christian W, It’s official: Hygge part of new Denmark Canon, CPH Post Online, December 13, 2016
TheLocal.DK, Danes define their national values in online poll, December 12, 2016
Suyin Haynes, Hygge, the Nordic Trend That Could Help You Survive 2016, Time, December 5, 2016
OxfordWords Blog, Word of the Year 2016: other words on the shortlist, http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/ November 2016
Oxfor Dictionary, Word of the Year 2016
Clarisse Loughrey, What is hygge? How the Danish lifestyle trend became a Word of the Year, Independent, November 3, 2016
Sara Malm, Ten reasons to HYGGE: ‘Hoo-ga’ is the Scandinavian lifestyle trend for ‘being cosy and content’. And yes, it will make you happier, fitter and slimmer! Daily Mail, October 8, 2016
Kristie McCrum, Are you hygge? The cosy lifestyle trend from Scandinavia that Brits just can’t get enough of, Mirror, November 2, 2016
Helen Russell, Get cosy: why we should all embrace the Danish art of ‘hygge’, The Telegraph, October 24, 2015
Claire Thomson, Hygge – den nye danske eksportsucces, videnskab.dk, November 16, 2016
Morten Svan, Internationalt medie hylder dansk hygge: Sådan gør de! BT, August 25, 2016
Bolig Indretning, Skab en hyggekrog, bolig.in
Hygge Scented Candle skandanavisk.com
Meik Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, January 17, 2017
Gracie Olmstead, Hygge Helps Explain Millennials’ Longing For Reenchantment, thefederalist.com, December 23, 2016
Elizabeth James, The Cosy HYGGE Winter Colouring Book, September 16, 2016
Olivia Heath, Hygge: 7 styling tips to achieve the Scandinavian look at home, UK House Beautiful, October 18, 2016
VisitDenmark on youtube.com So what is Danish hygge?, February 13, 2013
VisitDenmark The art of Danish hygge, visitdenmark.com
DenmarkDotDK on youtube.com Danes on Hygge, March 1, 2010
Huffington Post, 23 Fascinating Words With No Direct English Translations, February 22, 2014
AwesomeLifeHacks on youtube.com, How to pronounce hygge, December 25, 2016
Nordic Co-Operation, The New Nordic Food Manifesto
Sarah Mae Sincero, 16 Basic Desires Theory, explorable.com
National Archives, Declaration of Independence: A Transcription
World Happiness Report
Russell McLendon, How ‘hygge’ can help you get through winter, Mother Nature Network, December 12, 2013
Pia Edberg, The Cozy Life: Rediscover the Joy of the Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge, April 7, 2016
Faith Cummings, Hygge is a Danish form of self-care (kind of) that everyone’s talking about, hellogigles.com, November 10, 2016
Happiest in the world denmark.dk
Dr Steven Reiss, Ohio State University, Department of Psychology Biography
Dr Steven Reiss, Secrets of Happiness, Psychology Today, published January 1, 2001, last reviewed June 9, 2016
And last but certainly not least, a DAC favorite: Grethe Petersen’s Mazarin Kage Opskrift
A NOTE about those Amazon links: All books with Amazon links listed above are directed to the smile.amazon.com store. Did you know that the AmazonSmile Foundation donates 0.5% of the purchase price on eligible AmazonSmile purchases to a charity of your choosing at no cost to you? Same products, same prices as amazon.com. All you have to do to participate is use the website smile.amazon.com when making your purchases. The first time you go there, you will be prompted to select an eligible 501(c)(3) public charitable organization. We’d be ever so grateful if you chose “Danebo Inc” as your charitable organization of choice. Tak!