“You don’t spell it, you feel it.” ~ Winnie the Pooh
Happy Easter! Now let’s get HYGGE with it. Okay, first of all I do not know how to pronounce hygee. It is Danish. So, we can go Higgy, or Hige with a long i, (as in hide) or you can come up with your own way of dealing with it. The author of “The Little Book of HYGGE”, Meik Wiking suggests that it can also be pronounced hooga, hyyoogu, or heuuregh, but I find those only add to the confusion. He does add this caveat though, and a good caveat it is. He believes that “it is not important how you choose to pronounce it or even spell Hygge”, it is important to follow the wisdom of one of the greatest philosophers of all time, Winnie the Pooh, who is reported to have said when asked to spell a certain emotion, “You don’t spell it, you feel it.”
Hygge, according to Wiking is hard to define definitively. But he tries, even though he admits that “Explaining exactly what it is, that’s the tricky part.” It took him a whole book to define the word and give examples of what hygge is or feels like. I guess I can nutshell it by saying that it is the equivalent of our word happiness. Not happy, or at least not that defined by Merriam-Webster, as being favored by luck or fortune; but more active, or involving. Instead of just joy, joyful; instead of glad, gladness; instead of cheerful, cheerfulness.
But rather than anglicize the meaning, I will let Wiking provide you with his definitions—which are much more poetic than mine. He says that hygge has been called “everything from the ‘art of creating intimacy’, ‘cosiness of the soul’, and the ‘absence of annoyance’ to the ‘pleasure of soothing things’. His personal favourite though is ‘cocoa by candlelight’.” Hygge is “about… atmosphere… rather than about things.”
The author says that Hygge is: “about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.” He gave an example of spending a weekend with friends at an old cabin just before Christmas one year, on the shortest day of the year. The cabin was surrounded by a blanket of snow, he and his friends were tired from a day of hiking, and sitting in a semicircle around the fireplace, wearing “big jumpers and woollen socks”. He said the “only sounds you could hear were the stew boiling, the sparks from the fireplace, and someone having a sip of their mulled wine.” When one of his friends broke the silence, and asked “Could this be any more hygge?” another friend responded, “Yes…. if there was a storm raging outside.”
At this time of year, we do not really want that definition of hygge now that it is springtime. But the same feeling can be conjured during one of our famous rainstorms. It is still April after all—so before the weather turns warm for the season, we are in for some roller coaster weather. I love it when it is storming outside, and the wind rises, and I am cozy and dry and warm in my house.
High season for hygge is autumn and winter, but according to Wiking it can also be found during the warmer months—picnics being one of warm weather’s more hygge moments. A picnic by the sea, in the meadow, or a park are hygge inducing especially if enjoyed as a potluck with family and friends. Wiking believes that potluck picnics are the epitome of Hyggelig “because they are more egalitarian. They are about sharing food and sharing the responsibility and chores.”
The Danish are said to be the second happiest people (Norway being the first) in the world in 2017. Canada is not all that far behind them. So, it seems that we know a little bit about hygge-ness. According to Wiking, who is a member of the Happiness Research Institute based in Copenhagen, the root of happiness is satisfaction—the way we perceive our lives. He believes that hygee is “making the most of what we have in abundance: the everyday” and says that Benjamin Franklin was onto something when he observed that: “Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur ever day than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.”