As it's getting into those infamous dark, cold Danish winter months (Happy November, by the way), and I've been here for two and a half months now, I think it's time. And maybe also because of a shirt idea that I saw. It's time, of course, to talk about hygge.
Hygge - it's a noun, it's a verb, it's an adjective. You can hygge yourself or be hyggelig with friends. Say it with me: "hygge." Okay, so, because of the absurd number of Danish vowel sounds, let me help you out "Hoo-ga"...except force that first syllable out like you're also trying to say a y or an e at the same time.
My understanding isn't perfect, as I'm relatively certain it couldn't be if you didn't grow up in these Nordic winters, but I understand enough at this point to talk about it a bit. And it's such a huge aspect of Danish culture that I would be doing my darling readers a disservice to not talk about it at least a little bit.
Hygge roughly translates to "cozy" in English, and most Northern European cultures have some versions of the same sort of spirit. It's originally a Norwegian word, though the Norwegian version is more about personal well-being. And apparently in German, the concept of Gemütlichkeit is pretty similar.
From what I can tell, hygge developed mostly as a reaction to the cold, dark winters. The basic idea is to take comfort in being home or with close friends. A hyggelig cafe is one with blankets and big comfy chairs. And candles. You cannot have hygge without candles. One of the Danes that I live with explained that "Staying in with your grandma, drinking tea and watching old movies...that's hygge." A nice piece of wienerbrød (the Danish word for a danish) and a hot cup of coffee as you curl up with friends - that's hygge. The night I spent watching Disaster Preppers with my roommate from UR and the Danes who live on her hall -- okay, probably not hyggelig, but close.
It's all about being warm and happy with the people and things you love as a way to fight off the impending Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it is fundamentally Danish. And I think that's pretty damn cool.
Gettin' hyggelig with it,