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On Candles, Coffee, and Cozy: The Art of Hygge
July 24, 2019

On Candles, Coffee, and Cozy: The Art of Hygge

An introduction to the Danish philosophy of comfort

A lazy Saturday morning snuggled up under the covers with your eyes glued to a captivating book. The simple delight brought about by a steaming mug of hot cocoa. A bunch of your favorite cheap flowers snagged over at the farmer’s market, artfully arranged in an antique vase atop your vanity. The warmth of a plush cashmere cardigan so oversized it can double as a blanket.

Any of these sound familiar? The chances are (whether you were aware of it or not) you’ve already experienced the unique joy of hygge.

Pronounced “hue-gah,” it is “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Hundreds of interior design magazines and lifestyle blogs are practically built on this charming way of living. But that’s no surprise; people enjoy comfortable living.

Original Scene

We have Denmark to thank for the cozy philosophy of hygge, which sprung out of necessity – mainly a response to harsh and gloomy winters. The candlesticks, the blazing fireplaces, the mugs of mulled wine enjoyed over boisterous laughter were all ingredients to a cultural phenomenon centered on good vibes.

Is it any wonder that the Danes are consistently ranked by the World Happiness Report as some of the happiest people in the world? They know how to snuggle up and get comfy!

Today, hygge has morphed into a much-emulated lifestyle trend, clearly evidenced by the success of two best-selling lifestyle books: Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge and Signe Johansen’s How to Hygge — both of which topped the New York Times’ bestsellers’ list in 2017.

Hygge is Huge

The philosophy seems to be more popular than ever, as seen in the public interest in cable-knit knitwear, sheepskin-lined jackets, white bed linens, and an abundance of minimalist shabby-chic Scandinavian living rooms on Pinterest (replete with cashmere throws and sheepskin rugs). In 2016, “hygge” was even shortlisted for the Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year.

However, some Danes feel that the continuing globalization of hygge has led it to somehow slowly lose its meaning. Wiking, a Copenhagen native, feels that the concept is slowly becoming corrupted as companies increasingly attempt to commercialize it. “Hygge is increasingly at risk of being hijacked by commercial interests,” he says. “And this worries me as hygge, in its original shape, is free.”

In fact, he argues in his book that the more hyggeligt thing to do is to focus on finding joy and comfort in the simplest of things. Stark-white Italian linens and bespoke angora sweaters may be great, but you can also practice hygge by snuggling up in the nook of your well-worn armchair while enjoying a cup of your favorite tea, by turning off the bedroom lights at night in lieu of an array of lit candles, or even by hanging up some of your child’s watercolor masterpieces front-and-center in your living room.

World of comfort

Perhaps that’s why hygge is so cross-boundary; comfort is not a strictly Danish concept. Hygge is just an incarnation of comfort that can be molded and applied to any kind of life.

As the Danes cultivated a cultural attitude centered on warmth and comfort to combat the gloom of winter, you too can inject hygge in your home, even if you live in the sub-Saharan desert or the Southeast Asian tropics. There’s always a time for hot cocoa during a cool morning, a snug blanket for turbulent nights, and candles to light the darkness, wherever you are the world.

  • candles
  • cozy
  • hygge

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