So what exactly is hygge, anyway? From what I have been reading, it is a feeling, a state of emotional well-being, coziness, contentment. Enjoying good things, with good people. Enjoying the moment. It is a type of mindfulness, but to the Danish it is a way of life, one that helps them through all those dark and cold months, and really, helps them be the happiest country on earth.
Like most Americans. I often have to be reminded to stop, enjoy, just be. To not settle for fast food while on the go, but to take the time to make good food, and spend time with my family, away from distractions like cell phones, social media, the television. I would go go go and do do do, not taking time for myself, like an Energizer bunny. I want to be more present. I want to enjoy a good cup of hot chocolate, in my comfy home, lit by candles.. That is what hygge is about. Enjoyment of life.
Last Saturday we went out as a family, into the woods. It was a little chilly but the sun was shining, and the birds were out full force. We ran into an old friend and her children, who had moved away and was in town to visit, and had a nice chat. I also bumped into a former student library helper of mine, who was in 5th grade when I knew him - now he drives. It was good catching up with all of them. We went home feeling amazing, and the feeling carried through the rest of the weekend. This morning, instead of racing through a weekday breakfast, I took a few extra minutes to make pancakes for Wyatt and I - and we were both feeling full and happy after.
So now, the books.
How to Hygge by Signe Johansen: This book was the first I really read about the idea of hygge. I loved the photos, and the descriptions of the author's life, her chunky sweaters, her 20 year old Timberland boots that have been on countless hikes. The best part however were the recipes. I need to return this book to the library, so I won't get to try them just yet, but there are some seriously delicious treats within its pages. Oatmeal waffles, pancakes, and for the practice of fika, the getting together with friends over cake and coffee, there are such desserts as a midsummer almond torte with lemon and elderflower glaze, and a cake called darkness and light. This book talked a lot about nature, food, comforts, and natural materials, warm sweaters. It is not just a feeling, but also tactile feeling as well. I relate it to how I love to cradle my beloved ceramic mugs that my mother-in-law made me, my slouchy fat belly one, and the one that reminds me of the Great Lakes at night, when they are full of coffee or tea and I just hold them, feeling comfortable and safe and happy.
The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking: From what I believe, this is the book that launched hygge into the the rest of the world. Wiking works at the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, which sounds like a wonderful place to work. (and don't get my husband started on Copenhagen, his dream city) I feel like of the two books, this book was the better of the two in terms of some sort of practical guide. Both are more for the beginning reader on the topic, but this one was broken down more into an easier to understand format. I like lists, and it was sort of listy. While hygge is associated more with autumn and winter, this book offered suggestions on how to hygge year round. It too, provides delicious sounding recipes, and since I bought this book, I will definitely be giving them a go.
Wiking describes hygge as "humble and slow. It is choosing rustic over new, simple over posh and ambiance over excitement." This is a feeling and a movement I can understand, feel, and totally get behind. It engages all the senses. It's casual. It involves chocolate.
Since tonight is a perfect night for hygge, with a quiet rain hitting the window outside, I think I will finish here, and go snuggle under a blanket, while I drink a cup of mint tea, my favorite. And I may even have a slice of pie with it.