The Scandinavian Art of 'Hygge’
As a born and bred Norwegian, my personal definition of 'hygge' is the art of enjoying quality time by yourself or with family and friends.
The Scandinavian term ‘Hygge’ is a word that’s hard to translate- in short ‘hygge’ means coziness. But it’s so much more. Some define ‘hygge’ as enjoying life’s simple pleasures, or the joy of creating a cozy environment.
As a born and bred Norwegian, my personal definition of 'hygge' is the art of enjoying quality time by yourself or with family and friends. 'Hygge' is as simple as the act of curling up under a blanket with a good book on a rainy Sunday. It’s peeling (and eating!) fresh prawns on a pier during bright summer evenings by the coast with your relatives. 'Hygge' is just as much the shared laughs, coffee and home baked cinnamon scrolls at your friend’s house.
‘Hygge’ brings back a concept we are losing touch with: to live in, and enjoy, the present. This is a balancing-act that Scandinavians are particularly good at: they value their ‘hygge’. 'Hygge' allows us to take time out and create a setting that encourages either quiet reflection or shared conversation. Both are good for the soul. Could ‘hygge’ be part of the reason why Scandinavian countries keep topping the UN’s worldwide ‘Happiness Report’?
'Hygge' happens in all our very defined Nordic seasons, but is even more special in the cold, dark winter-months of November through to February. 'Hygge' creates the perfect balance with the sometimes, harsh environment outside, and the comfortable feeling of being snug and cosy inside after a day spent in the snow.
In my mind (and experience!), 'hygge' often goes hand in hand with a nice bite to eat. Nordic cuisine is simple, tasty and honours local produce and seasonal availability. Make sure you try waffles with sour cream and fresh strawberries, a variety open top sandwiches or smoked and pickled fish as part of your Scandinavian experience - I have no doubt you’ll find it both enjoyable and ‘hyggelig’!
We can’t talk about 'hygge' without mentioning Christmas - the possibly most ‘hyggelig’ (cosiest) time of year in Scandinavia! This is where the epitome of 'hygge' really shines: Christmas is about family, catching up with friends, celebrating the end of another year, food, festivities, candles, open fires and spending time in the countryside (it's common to own a family cabin in the forest or the mountains).
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Image credits: Tina Stafren, Niclas Vestefjell, Lina Roos and Asaf Kliger, Visit Sweden.