At this time of doom, gloom and austerity, we are all in need of learning about what makes us happy. With nifty commercial nous, publishers have spotted an opportunity to haul us out of our malaise and depression: the Danish concept of hygge.
What is hygge?
The reason books have been written on the subject is because hygge does not have a direct translation equivalent in English. As Winnie-th-Pooh tells Piglet. ‘You don’t spell it [love], you feel it’. Here are some approximations, suggested by Meik Wiking in his recent book, The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well:
- ‘the art of creating intimacy’
- ‘cosiness of the soul’
- ‘the absence of annoyance’
- ‘taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things’
- ‘cocoa by candlelight’
He gives by example an idyllic scene, to describe the experience. Imagine a group of friends, retired to the lounge of a ski chalet after an excellent meal, sipping hot, percolated coffee and liqueurs in comfy armchairs next to a roaring log fire – oblivious to the snow blizzard doing its worst outside. Hygge suggests a sense of warmth and comfort in the throes of the worst the world can throw at us.
Is Jolabokaflod hygge?
In the Utopic scene above, imagine that the friends are on holiday in Iceland and it is Christmas Eve. The friends have just eaten an amazing Christmas meal to mark the festive season and are settling into their armchairs to open their presents, some of which are books. The friends spend the rest of the evening – Christmas Eve – exchanging intelligent conversation, drinking mulled wine and reading.
This is Jokabokaflod in action: a prime example of a hygge tradition.