A Mom’s Guide to Hygge (hoo-ga or hue-guh)
It’s been all over the news for several months now. And while it may be hard to pronounce (I won’t deny that my own mispronunciation of hygge – rhyming it with piggy – is permanently stuck in my head), it’s much easier to achieve.
The good news is that when it comes to hygge, spelling and pronunciation aren’t important. So move past the fears of how to say this Danish word and just immerse yourself in the concept.
Hygge can be a noun or an action verb or an adjective. Sorry to go all “Grammar Girl” on you. No matter what part of speech it is, hygge is simply a feeling, a feeling of coziness, connectedness. Just as the Inuit have a thousand words for snow, the Norwegians have as many ways of describing everyday togetherness. While the English language doesn’t have a special word like hygge, it doesn’t mean we should not add the concept to our cultural vocabulary!
I equate cozy with happy. And we all know what happens when moms are happy. Everyone’s happy!
When I first stumbled across hygge during winter in Minnesota, I thought it sounded idyllic and perfect for our cold Midwest winter environment–and it is. But just because spring as sprung, does it mean that we need to pack up our hygge in plastic bins with the freshly washed snow pants?
Absolutely not! Cozy isn’t just a cold-weather experience.
So I’ve culled together a few basic tenets of this Danish way of living happy.
Here’s the 411 on hygge!
First, hygge doesn’t have to be fancy, but it can be.
Friends can come over in their jammies, you can wrap up in fleece blankets, and open a bag of peanut M&Ms. Or you can do your hair and make-up, put on that sassy new outfit, and make some hors d’oeuvres that put Martha Stewart to shame. Part of hygge is not stressing- do what brings you peace and makes you happy (casual or fancy) -because that happiness is going to spread to those around you.
Hygge doesn’t have to just be friend time.
Cozy and relaxed can be with our kids and spouses, too. Create a temporary family reading nook with bean-bags, pillows, and blankets. Provide surprise library books, add hot cocoa (or milkshakes, if the weather’s warm!), and stir!
Lighting really does set the mood.
For a quiet gathering of relaxed conversation, think candles, soft lighting. Add dimmers for overhead light fixtures; even better, leave the overhead lights off and just use a few table and floor lamps. For a reading gathering, think pockets of light with table and floor lamps placed to illuminate the reader not the room. Bonus: calm settings can settle kiddos!
When the weather is right for heading outdoors, think about draping some white lights in the backyard. Bring your candles, too. Stick some votives in mason jars so the breeze won’t extinguish the light. Have a backyard fire pit? S’mores for everyone! And remember, this hygge-time doesn’t need to be evening; sunlight provides the warmth we are seeking. Inhale the scent of sunscreen, freshly mown grass. That’s hygge,too.
Be in the Moment
Remember memories are a part of hygge. Try putting your phone and tablet away. Savor the moments with this intimate group of friends. I promise you some of the most joyful moments of friendship are better imprinted in your memory rather than posted on Instagram.
When you’re caught up in those conversations with friends, use this time to express your gratitude. Hygge is not “me” time but “we” time. It’s about those moments when you find the good in others and make connections with those you cherish.
While hygge may seem indefinable, just remember it’s all about creating happiness for yourself and those around you.
an earlier version of this post was published on March 14th, 2017