Patti and I entertained a Denmark couple recently, Jan Mayer (an exchange student Patti hosted 29 years ago) and his wife, Malin (a professional architect). While Jan and Patti reminisced, Malin and I talked and found we both share a deep love of beauty.
The Danes take their love of beauty to another level, so much so that one of their words intrinsically connected to beauty – hygge (pronounced HUE-gah) – can be used both as an adjective or a verb. Beauty in action, I like that! Though there are many ways to describe hygge, it is simply the Danish ritual of enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Friends. Family. Graciousness. Contentment. Good feelings. A warm glow.
Hygge is deeper than surface beauty; it’s the feeling you get when life is so charming, cozy and comfortable that you have to give a special name to the place, the atmosphere or the moment.
Hyggekrog is a nook where you would read a good book or watch a film in your comfy clothes and slippers, wrapped up in a blanket with a chunky cushion at your arm and a fluffy rug at your feet, with a cup of hot tea, warm chocolate or coffee in one hand and a few cookies or a slice of cake in the other.
Hyggelig is that soft quality of light seen an hour before sunset, or the amber glow of a fireplace or from candlelight. Understandably, candles are an obsession in Denmark where the longest, darkest nights last from 4 in the afternoon until 10 the next morning. The Danes’ deep love of beautiful lighting stems from long winter hours spent indoors.
Hygge is a state of mind in which ordinary Danish life becomes quite special. Danes take the time to create retreats of their homes and apartments. Creating hygge is simple. With so many cold, dark, days, they’ve found the act of ritually lighting a candle to glow beside their cup of coffee in the morning or that relaxing over a home-cooked evening meal with friends or family – wrapped in deep conversation, indulging in hot drinks and wholesome foods – can make a huge difference in their spirits.
Creating hygge requires both being aware of every good moment and enjoying being right here, right now. You are hygge when you are in no rush to go anywhere and better still, you don’t feel a rush to be anywhere else.
The Danes say hygge is accessible to everyone. Living in hygge, much like living in beauty, is a purposeful pursuit. As such, you don’t have to adopt a lifestyle or buy very much of anything to have hygge in your life. Just be contented with life and savor its simple pleasures in comfortable surroundings.
Malin knows that architecture and design done well helps bring about more hygge. Further, she believes Denmark’s cultural emphasis on hygge is the reason it’s rated No. 1 for having the happiest people in all of Europe.
I was told Danes always ask their guests if they’d like something to eat or drink, so I know they would make good Southerners. And I know Jan and Malin felt right at home during their visit to Mississippi. Good conversations. Good meals. Good times. And plenty of that good Southern comfort – sweet iced tea.
Hygge well – live in beauty!