Raising kids in Scandinavia is an obnoxiously gorgeous, shock-inducing list of detailed perks; 480 days of paid maternity leave, wilderness-themed playgrounds with the ever-charming moose sighting, adorable woodland-themed indoor/outdoor rec centers complete with native botanicals, obscenely affordable bi-lingual schools, and an all-around family supportive lifestyle integrated deep within the cultural structure. Year after year, Scandinavian countries dominate the top 5 spots in the annual World Happiness Report, with the U.S. grumping behind at 19th. So understandably, the past few years have had a natural onslaught of articles and best-selling books revealing Scandanavian lifestyle secrets. But there’s one humble Danish word that comes smashing through the noise: Hygge.
Pronounced “hoo-guh”, Hygge is difficult to translate into English, but comes close to “the pursuit of coziness”. It’s less of a word, but more of a complex verb which nurtures the Danish way of living well. Despite their infamously bleak winters, the Danish consider the fall and winter months to be the most Hygge time of the year! So how exactly can you and your family embrace the cozy connectedness fostered by Hygge this fall? The Danes have a few basic suggestions to transform this year’s winter into the most hygge time of the year.
Let there Be Light:
In the darkest months, the Danish suggest candlelight, to create a contagious coziness. Together, the family can light candles daily to invite a warmth and connection into an otherwise artificially lit room. Candlelight has a natural soothing effect on us as compared to unflattering overhead lighting or the stagnant quality of a lamp. It is an invitation to tune in to the moment.
Next Level Comfy:
Get the softest throws you can find. Find those old school knit socks your great aunt made you. Have each kid pick out their most favorite mug and make hot cocoa. Hygge is all about soft fabrics and warmth; coziness starts with activating our senses so that it may end in the heart.
The Great Outdoors:
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing!” This common Danish saying is no exaggeration, it’s a cultural rule. Layer once, layer twice, layer until you are 100% comfortable enough to open the front door. The Danes suggest we be outside, together, every single day regardless of the weather. It doesn’t mean we need to learn the harsh Danish tradition of ice fishing- it can simply be exploring the backyard or strolling in the local park. Pay close attention to the sights, sounds, and smells of winter and let one another know what you’re observing.
Hygge an intangible experience of the meaning of life with those we love. And most importantly it is uninterrupted by distraction. At this point, it’s probably pretty obvious – iPads and iPhones are put away, especially with our kids so that they get our full attention.
Most importantly – it’s your hygge. Your family is unique and the connections you make together are too. If you make time for Hygge experiences, after the 2nd or 3rd time you will notice curious, special patterns – these are the quieter messages your family makes only when you are together. Discover your family’s Hygge language, the little whispers of indescribable warmth going into coldest months of the year.