In Denmark there is a word that doesn’t quite have a translation in any other language… It is hygge (pronounced hoo-guh). Some would translate it as “cozy.” The only problem is that cozy doesn’t encompass the true meaning. Hygge is a concept, an environment, a state of being. I would recommend that you and your family find some time for hygge and make it a regular thing in your lives because it allows people to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company. It will help you create a closer, more connected family.
The concept and potential application is well described in “The Danish Way of Parenting” by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl. If by the end of reading this brief introduction to hygge you are intrigued, I would recommend reading the book and applying what fits for you and your family.
Hygge is most closely related to the idea of “cozy”. It is being with loved ones without the pressure to perform (act like everything is okay); it is being with loved ones without having to engage in awkward or uncomfortable conversations. It is being with loved ones with a sense of “oneness” or “togetherness.” After finding and defining who you are as a family, it is the “we” that you feel when you are all working together for this sense of connectedness without the pressures or distractions that often hitchhike along on family outings.
This is an incredible experience to share with family. I spent some time in Denmark and experienced hygge, and I can say that it is a wonderful feeling. How do we make it happen here in our families?
Hygge comes along with some defining tenets to be followed that allow the connectedness to happen. The first of these is that everyone who participates in hygge needs to agree to the same tenets. It takes a joint effort to make hygge happen. Everyone plays a role. In Denmark the older kids know that during hygge time, it is their role to play with the younger kids while the adults work together to prepare a meal or snacks. The adults all know that everyone participates in the preparation of food, environment etc. Is everyone on board? If not, ask that they try participating two or three times with you and then you can re-evaluate.
A universal tenet in hygge is that electronics are turned off, put away, or stored together where they are not a distraction. This includes TV’s, tablets, cell phones, computers, and any other entertainment focused electronic device. These serve as distractions from the togetherness that makes hygge what it is.
Another important rule with hygge is that everyone agrees to keep conversations light in the hygge zone. This means no politics, no “when are you going to have a baby,” or “when are you getting married” type of talk. You can talk about the weather, what you found enjoyable about your day, what your hopes for the future are, what you appreciate about one another. There are many positive subjects that don’t invite contention, strife, resentment, pressure, guilt, or shame. Find those topics and make them a part of your hygge experience.
Providing food to a hygge environment can be important, too. It can be cookies and milk, birthday cake and ice cream, maybe a BBQ with burgers and hotdogs, or even a full blown meal. Food and drink tend to come with gatherings of loved ones and just makes it that much more cozy. The food preparation as a group can be a part of the hygge experience as well where everyone is pitching in and playing a role.
Last, but definitely not least, hygge is a commitment to just being together. To being able to let go, relax and enjoy the food, the atmosphere, the company and the hygge. Stating that there should be no time limitations is, at times, not realistic. That being said, do your best to carve out the time so that the clock is not a concern for anyone, nor is having to be elsewhere.
The time that you spend hygge-ing will be some of the most connecting and enjoyable times you will share with family. Keep in mind, this doesn’t happen naturally. Like many experiences in life worth having, hygge needs to be intentional, and the tenets need to be followed in order to have the best hygge experience.
Give it a try! Present these tenets to your family. Ask for a united effort and have an evening of hygge. Share with your friends; invite them over and share the magic. Don’t forget to share your guidelines with them. Hygge jer! (Have a cozy time!)
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