I’ve been reflecting lately about a trip I took to Denmark and Sweden back in 2014. As it turns out, one of the biggest catch-words of the year and a runner-up for Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2016 happens to come from Denmark. (The actual winner for Word of the Year was “post-truth,” but that warrants a whole ‘nother blog post… rolls eyes). As we near into winter and the holiday season, it’s been hard not to come across a Pinterest board, catalogue, storefront display, newsletter, online shop that hasn’t mentioned this ubiquitous word: Hygge. Pronounced “hue-gah” or “hooga.” There is no direct translation in the English language but it is evocative of being warm and cozy. But it is much more than just that. Hygge can mean intimate time spent with friends and family. It can mean enjoying life’s simple pleasures like the glow of a candle. It means contentment, charm, connectivity, safety, comfort. Hygge can be a simple ritual such as brewing a cup of tea or coffee in the morning and slowly enjoying it in your favorite cup. It can mean having an intimate dinner party with close friends, or snuggling on the couch with a blanket and indulging in the moment. Hygge is really about enjoying simple acts for what they are and recognizing the joy they bring to life. Its about being fully aware and enjoying the present and finding peace and comfort in that moment.
As an American, this all sounds wonderful. Especially after a particularly treacherous year. I completely understand why it has caught on so massively in the States. However, to me it has been sad to see this beautiful Danish tradition become a bastardization. It’s being used as the latest marketing ploy to hock the latest knit cardigans, wool blankets, candles, boots, baked goods, furniture, home decor, cosmetics, you name it. Like we do to so many other things in America, Hygge has become merely a vehicle to commoditize product. Can’t we just enjoy one nice thing for what it is? Try to think about the true reason behind Hygge and why it has contributed so profoundly to the Dane’s happiness. Denmark is repeatedly ranked as the happiest nation in the world year after year for a reason after all. And that’s because to them, Hygge is a state of mind, not a product. Its a way of life. You may not find the same level of happiness in buying a cozy blanket as you would if you were simply aware of the reasoning behind that purchase. Maybe it’s because you want to wrap you and your child in the blanket and enjoy a moment together watching a good movie and drinking hot chocolate. Hygge is about intention and being deliberate. We tend to forget the reasoning behind our consumerism and focus more on the products themselves and how that particular product is going to fill a void in our life. As Americans, the “spirituality” or intentionality behind our actions frequently gets lost. We always want the next greatest and newest thing. We want to impress our friends and family members by buying them nice things because we assume that it will make them happy.
Thinking about our very American way of life also makes me think about how wasteful we are. Why aren’t more things built to last instead of the cheap, replaceable junk that gets sold here? Why don’t we pass things along more often and re-use or re-purpose more? Why don’t we pass on legacy or inheritable things more often? What happened to the idea of beautiful, well-made objects, for the purpose of none other than being beautiful? Why don’t we share something that is special and meaningful to us as a gift to somebody else? Why are our lives so surrounded by plastic and chemicals instead of wood and plants?
Yes, inevitably this time of year I am feeling nostalgic for Scandinavia. I was only there for a short time, but I saw a glimpse of what is like to live a grounded life. A life grounded in the earth and with each other. Everyone just seemed so.. connected there, in some weird way. It’s really hard to explain. I think its hard to explain because its like experiencing a feeling, an evocation, an atmosphere, not something you can directly put your finger on. You have to be there to feel it. And yes, I am only seeing a small slice of life as an outsider and realize that my outlook may be extremely naïve. Every society has its own problems and I am not lost on this. I am only recalling a brief moment that I spent in a strange land, looking in in awe on what it is like to be.. well, for lack of a better word, happy.
Here are my resolutions for 2017: Be more present and intentional in my actions. Cut back on wastefulness, this includes purchasing less items that aren’t built to last. Simplify and declutter- in the physical and the abstract sense. Improve and expand on our product lines, because I truly believe in the quality and usefulness of our goods. Become more open to the world, whether it is being more social on social media, writing more, creating more, giving samples of our products to local shops, just generally being more “out there” and out of my shell. And learn more. We should never stop learning. Learn how to be a better spouse, a better friend, a better business owner, a better craftsman (or craftswoman ;), a better cook, a better learner. Yes, that’s a thing. What can you do to bring more Hygge to your life?
To close, I will leave you with some fun facts:
Observational humor: For some reason I was literally the only person in either Sweden or Denmark that was wearing a hat. I mean, NOBODY else was wearing a hat. I started to get really self conscious about it. I still can’t figure out why. It was cold, well to my standards it was cold, but I was there in May. Can somebody who knows please explain this to me??? I still wake up abruptly in a cold sweat some nights puzzling over this!
I was in Copenhagen during Eurovision 2014 and saw Conchita Wurst win the title. Had no idea what Eurovision was before this, but now I am obsessed.
The only thing that can simultaneously make me gag and recoil in horror, is thinking about a Scandinavian fast food place (think "Swedish Burger King") that we had on our honeymoon at a mall in Berlin. Half-filled cup of warm flat soda, days-old cold fish slathered in mayo on stale cardboard bread, excuse me I am going to go throw up again. Anytime Scott (the better half of PSSC) wants to get a rise out of me he mentions this dreadful abomination of a “restaurant” and I gag on cue. It will forever live on in the Scandinavian lore in my brain.
Stephanie, PSSC Co-Founder