Brexit. Trumpism. Hygge. These are among the top 10 words of 2016 according to the Oxford Collins Dictionary. Ironic that two of the three describe controversial, politically charged and debate-inducing words, and the third is the new cocooning, the ultimate respite from the year’s more serious events. The Yings and the Yang.
Hygge (pronounced Hoo-gah) is simply the Danish word for “cozy,” although most Danes would explain that it is more than mere coziness. It’s cozy and comfortable and content and convivial, a state of relaxed well-being. For hundreds of years the happy Scandinavians (often listed among the world’s happiest people) have been practicing this pursuit of simple pleasures most frequently involving candlelight, fires, fuzzy knitted socks, porridge, coffee, cake and other people. Getting hygge is simple: go home and stay there, preferably in your hyggekrog — aka “cozy nook” — wrapped in a blanket, drinking a warm beverage or maybe some grogg and binge watch a show with your friends.
Why hygge, why now? It is an extension of the better-for-you/heath/well-being trends. It’s also the counter trend to the constantly plugged-in, hectic, always-on complicated lifestyle. Whichever the root, hygge and general coziness trends are showing up all over:
- At least six books about hygge were published in the United States this year, with more to come in 2017.
- The preamble to a mixtape by ASAP Mob, a rapper collective, called the Cozy Tapes, a kind of Christmas album. A paean to boxer shorts, terry cloth and old man socks, the group debates who is the coziest of them all, with phrases like: “I was so cozy I fell asleep before I left the house.”
- Hyggelife.com sells soft, furry Nordic home goods like reindeer skins, goat and sheep skins, adorable suede and sheepskin baby booties, and of course an assortment of candles and candleholders.
- On Instagram there are almost 1.5m #hygge posts of falling leaves, bowls of pumpkin soup and babies adorably wrapped in blankets.
- On Pinterest, there has been a year-on-year rise of 285% in hygge-themed pins.
- Bar Hygge in Philadelphia is a restaurant focused on creating a warm atmosphere where guests can enjoy the good things in life with friends and family. While not a Danish-themed restaurant, they feature a new/contemporary American menu with seasonal changes and a focus on neighborhood comfort food.
- Hygge & West is wallpaper company founded upon the Danish concept of hygge. They offer products that are designed to help bring more hygge into our customers’ homes — creating a cozy, beautiful environment where small, everyday moments can be enjoyed.
- Elske Restaurant in Chicago is based on hygge. From the genuine welcome at the host stand to the warm glow of candles atop wood tables and personality-rich servers who border on the nurturing, and chefs and cooks who, despite no shortage of food runners, take a moment to bring a dish or two to each table personally. While the food is not especially Nordic, it is highly creative, labor-intensive dishes, contrasted by an open dining room whose clean lines are anything but complicated.