It’s the Holidays so Time to Hygge!
Denmark’s Meik Wiking explains why ’tis the season to be jolly
The very Danish concept of hygge has been all the rage in the United States and around the world. But what does it mean and, above all, how does it fit in with our need for togetherness and warmth during the holiday season?
#DenmarkInNY spoke with Meik Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and author of The Little Book of Hygge about why the holiday season is perfect for hygge and how hygge can make our holidays more complete.
DNY: How are Christmas and hygge connected?
Meik Wiking: Christmas is the high season for hygge. Hygge has been called everything from “the art of creating intimacy”, “cosiness of the soul” and “cocoa by candlelight” and some of the key ingredients are togetherness, relaxation, indulgence, presence and comfort. The true essence of hygge is the pursuit of everyday happiness and it’s basically like a hug, just without the physical touch.
Why is it important to hygge?
Benjamin Franklin said it best: “Happiness consists more in the small conveniences of pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom to a man in the course of his life.”
And that is what hygge is all about — the small daily pleasures.
Can people ‘adopt’ the Danish way of hygge, since it’s an ingrained part of being a Dane?
Hygge happens everywhere. I’ve been getting messages from readers in the US, France, Poland and Portugal — they say “I’ve been doing this all my life. I didn’t know there was a word for it.” And I think that helps people appreciate it more and I think it helps people both plan for it and acknowledge it when they experience it. I think that’s the difference between Danes and a lot of other people: that we have a word that describes that situation and that makes us more aware of it and perhaps makes us plan for it more and appreciate it more. And then secondly the major difference is that we see it as part of our culture and part of our DNA, the same way Americans see perhaps freedom as part of their culture or DNA.
Do you see people starting to hygge more outside Denmark?
Yes, hygge has become the second Viking invasion!
In some ways, Christmas has also become an overly commercial holiday. How does one stay focused on the hygge part of the holiday?
I think we have reached peak happiness for stuff. More things are not going to bring more happiness. I think Scandinavians are relatively good at decoupling wealth and wellbeing. After our basic needs are met, we realise that more money doesn’t lead to happiness and, instead, we focus on what brings us a better quality of life. For instance time with family and friends (continues below).
What are your best tips for a hyggelig Christmas?
For many people, Christmas is a lot of work and stress, and therefore I think it’s even more important to keep reminding oneself of the hygge manifesto:
Turn down the lights.
Bring out the candles.
Build relationships and narratives
‘Do you remember the time, we …?’
We over me.
Share the tasks and the airtime.
Take it in.
This might be as good as it gets.
Silke Baumann is the Press, Culture & Public Diplomacy Intern at Denmark In NY.