Hygge, if you’re not familiar with the term, is pronounced hue-guh. It’s a Danish term for coziness, and is apparently all the craze as of late. Coziness is not a sufficient translation, as a sufficient translation from Danish to English doesn’t exist, according to my source. But it’s the closest one can get to the real meaning.
I’ve just finished reading The Cozy Life by Pia Edberg. It was a short and fast read, but sufficient in educating me as to what Hygge is, how to practice it, and most of all, how to share it with others.
I particularly found it interesting that for the last few years, unbeknownst to me, I have been trying to attain an atmosphere of Hygge. When we moved into Orchard House two and a half years ago, my life was harried, stressful, unorganized, and therefore rather unpleasant. Stuff tends to pile up on you when you’re trying your darndest to live a big city life while suffering from chronic illness. When you’re home, you’re zoning out or sleeping in an effort to recuperate from your anxieties accumulated from rushing to and fro, and your life becomes void of anything truly important or significant, to be honest. It’s like your body, mind, and spirit are plagued with a slow leak and become drained, like an IV bag. But then, you also figure it’s kinda okay, because nobody on the outside knows what inner turmoil you’re in, or that you’re all dried up. Besides, you appear to be earning an astronomical number of heavenly brownie points, what with busy-ness being next to godliness and all.
It’s foolish, really, to fill a calendar so full that one might appear to be on the top of some imaginary totem pole, when in reality, one’s life is being sucked out and therefore hardly worth living. The cup, as we like to talk about in Christian circles, becomes overflowing, but with all the wrong things. All the wrong attitudes and goals. And too many less-than-meaningful activities. Or perhaps too many meaningful activities. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.
But about Orchard House. When we purchased our small home on two acres, my goal was to stop the insanity and settle in. Not in a lazy way, but in a way that made me feel more fulfilled in life. I wanted less time in the car. More time with family and neighbors. Less time signing up for activities that made me appear important and fulfilled but instead proved to be draining. Less time buzzing about relatively senseless activities and more time planning projects that would last long after I am gone. Less time on the screen. More time reading. Less time in the car (did I already say that?). More time writing by hand for the sake of keeping up my penmanship. More time sewing. Writing books and blogs. Needlework. Welcoming grandkids and kids to Orchard House for a reprieve from their crazy lives.
I love cozy.
Cozy couches. Cozy food. Cozy atmosphere. Cozy throws. Cozy clothes. Cozy chats by cozy fires with a cozy cup of chai or hot chocolate.
Hygge is really just about creating cozy wherever you go (even the workplace!), although it mainly takes place in your home. It’s creating an inviting atmosphere of pleasantry in the form of good, non-judgmental conversation, and learning to turn back the clock a little bit, whether hosting a get together or being alone for an afternoon.
Think of things people did before television, radio, iPhones, social media, and an app for everything. They lived out the actual meaning of socializing, rather than participated in a fake, unfulfilling form of socializing. They talked face to face. They helped one another in hard times. They played checkers together. If they wanted to send someone an encouraging note, they brought out pen and paper and embellishments, wrote their own feelings and thoughts, stamped it, and sent it via USPS. They took walks in nature. Many worked in nature — all day, most days. They hunted. They fished. They sewed their own clothes. They grew their own vegetable, canned them, and stored them for the winter.
Life was simple. Not easy. But simple.
Activities of the past have meaning that many of us are missing with the industrialization of America and the addition of advanced technology. I’m not saying we all need to revert back to the 1800’s, for much of what went on back then was deep suffering in ways we know nothing about. But when we can no longer sit still long enough to read anything more than 140 characters in length, when we no longer know how to communicate with our mouths and eye contact, when we consistently choose bashing others with our political views day in and day out via social media, and when we subject ourselves to a plethora of useless “information”, maybe it’s time to take a break. What is meaningful about reading hundreds of memes or even blogs like this one per day, eating a McSomething four times a week, never developing culinary skills, abandoning real and thoughtful literature, or never learning a new, hands on, from scratch skill?
In a nutshell, Hygge is intentionally developing a place that’s inviting. Not because that place is fancy or worth a lot of money (although that’s fine, too, but beware of large, luxurious spaces that are likely pristine and feel untouchable). But because it is simple and non-assuming — not fast paced and highly strung out. The place needs to be simple. The activities need to be simple. And though the conversation may go deep, it’s kind. Slow to anger. Slow to judge. Slow to respond, because of much skilled listening taking place.
Hygge is largely kindness. To yourself, but more importantly to others. It’s making your house a home, and serving all who enter with genuine kindness and acceptance, save for maybe burglars or axe murderers.
My goals for Orchard House are coming about slowly. Turns out that habits die hard. But they do die. I’m reading more. I’m not on my phone near as much, although still more than I think I should be. I play hostess to my kids and their families quite often. I’d like to invite more friends over, but sometimes it’s difficult between chronic illness and taking care of a Mom with Parkinson’s. I haven’t gardened, officially. But I’ve started a strawberry patch and planted some berry bushes. I also try to pretty up the place with simple, outside decor in the form of old ladders, a wagon used as a planter, and flowers placed here and there. I got a couple of bunnies, and one died. But Calvin is still bouncing around and he doesn’t mind that Hops is gone because it gives him more room to roam, more food to eat. He’s kinda stingy like that. I’d like to get a pig or two (yes, to butcher). Maybe some baby lambs. And a donkey. I’ve decided against goats, but would be delighted with a horse. For now, loving on the neighbor’s horse suffices.
I sewed one granddaughter a dress for Christmas, and am working on the other one for the other granddaughter. I have a needlepoint project I pick up from time to time. Shaun makes old fashioned tents for the kids to play in, and then I invite them over for a slumber party. We play simple games like turn all the lights out and scare the bajeebers out of each other. We pop popcorn, though still with a microwave. We watch a movie, but only one. We read books in the dark with a flashlight.
I have an old-fashioned oil lamp and I’m going to start using it. Candles will be showing up more around here, because Hygge is harder to achieve without natural light.
And so on.
The trick is to not stress out about Hygge, for that would defeat the purpose. The point is … enjoy the simple things in life, and invite others along.
Is any of this Scriptural?
I think so.
Command those who are rich in this present age (that’d be us) not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. ~I Timothy 6:17
Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. ~I Peter 4:9-10
The Cozy Life is not a Christian book, per se. But in it, you’ll find plenty of Christian practices, and if those practices became habitual, I think it’s possible there would be fewer incidences of depression, anxiety, and general unhappiness in the world.