The Danish concept of ‘hygge’ (hoo-ga), developed in the eighteenth century as a ‘deliberate attempt to create something’ which was theirs alone, is such a lovely idea. There is no exact translation into English, but it essentially reflects the act of making oneself snug and content, particularly through Denmark’s long, cold winters. As Abrahams writes, ‘… essentially hygge was conceived as a concept centred on refuge; on the home as a comforting sanctuary from the outside world and a safe place to withdraw to with your loved ones’. It is ‘about gentle pleasure, and it acknowledges that we need to pay attention to our well-being’. The Danish adoption of the concept, and the fact that it is still heavily important within society, is something of which the nation are incredibly proud.
The core values of hygge are integral to Danish life, particularly with the eschewing of materialism and the embracing of the homemade or makeshift, but a contemporary twist has been built upon these firm foundations. Abrahams has decided, in her factual appreciation of Danish society, to adopt the concept of hygge into her own life, lived in Gloucestershire with two teenage sons. Like me, she has been to Copenhagen only once, but found it a welcoming place, with a fascinating, design-orientated culture.
I am thrilled to say that I have been practicing hygge for the entirety of my conscious life, though not until recent years did I apply this wondrous word to what I have been doing. I take time to notice everything; I like to look at and notice things that others tend to miss. I love to go on long walks, watch the flames dance in the fireplace, watch the colours change in the sky and the clouds morph into different shapes. I love to watch buds form in the springtime, lay back on a hammock with a good read during a sultry summer, crunch on autumn leaves with my boots, and crown a wonderfully chilly winter’s day with a glass of mulled wine with my family. I am self-contented; I am more than happy with the person I am, and how I view the world.
I must admit that I wasn’t as interested in the emphasis on designer pieces of furniture which Abrahams believe would suit a hyggelig lifestyle. Much of the book is lovely and well written, but the lists seemed a little unnecessary, and even a touch patronising in places. It gathers a good momentum, and is itself both a fascinating social study, and a very cosy read.
Hygge is an important book, particularly within the frantic modern world in which we live. If everyone read this, we would be kinder to one another. There would be less emphasis upon how many things we could buy, and more upon using things we already have. We would have more compassion; we would be more in peace, both within ourselves and within society.