Now according to my somewhat dubious sources, Denmark is just slightly less uninteresting than Belgium in the grand European hierarchy. We know they produce some pretty good pork, and the effervescent Sandy Toksvig gives a good run for the BBC money, but other than that, for the most of us, Denmark is just another sort-of-not-quite Nordic country. It comes as quite a shock then to discover those canny Danes have been not only lounging about enjoying, but also single handedly exporting ‘hygge’ to the mass-market. Somehow I seem to have missed the memo about this trend until now, which may be partly to blame for my general sense of frazzledness in recent weeks.
For those of you a little still in the (hygge-induced-lights-dimmed) dark about the whole thing, it’s one of those semi-etheral concepts difficult to pin down and translate, and certainly pronounce. Don’t even get me wading into that argument, suffice to say, it is most certainly not how it looks. A socio-anthropologically inclined linguist would have a field day trying to define hygge, but let us for the sake of argument sum it up as an elevated state of cosiness. You can hygge with others, by drawing down the blinds and having a meal with friends, or on your own by lighting candles and reading a good book. You can even hygge yourself every time you make a cup of tea, if you bother to get the best china out that you normally only save for special occasions, and if you make it with loose tea, a fancy strainer and sugar tongs then it’s a double hygge whammy. A hygge combo in other words.
Clearly the artic circle bound Danes with their maximum of seven hours of daylight in the winter months needed something to get them through the potential gloom, but they do specify that you can hygge whatever the weather, if it makes you feel good. So this is what I want to consider today, from a skinflint perspective. If like Digger and I, you want to make your pennies count then it is easy to get into the habit of holding back on little luxuries, on doing without, on skinning the flint to make things last. This can feel, or be seen by others looking in, that this is a self-inflicted purgatory. A time of famine, literally, if we relate this to diets in the run up to the potential Christmas over indulgence. But we are fortunate enough to be born in the western world, in the 21st century, when thrift does not mean hardship, or a means to prevent destitution. It instead is a way of simplifying your life, minimising your extravagance, peccadillos, and possessions, in order to streamline your time, energy and future prospects. This way even the simple things can give you the warm glow of hygge. If your life is one of waste and opulence, perhaps it may be a little harder to make the most of life’s small pleasures.
So whether you get a warm feeling from a bacon butty on a Sunday morning, or indulge in a good belly laugh with Miss Toksvig on QI, or perhaps some other small perfect inexpensive moment that makes you put a little something upbeat into your life, then you’ve given yourself a hug. A hygge hug. And anyone that can do that for themselves, or for those around them, is a master in the art of life.