“Is This Hygge?” by Susanna Wolff (a satire piece), The New Yorker, 2/13/2017.
“The Year of Hygge, The Danish Obsession With Getting Cozy,” by Anna Altman, The New Yorker, 12/18/2016.
My constant mission to keep up with new words and trends will never end, and hygge is only the latest. It is a Danish word, pronounced “hoo-gah.” It means “a feeling or mood that comes [from] taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special. Whether it’s making coffee a verb by creating a ritual of making it, then lingering over a cup to a cozy evening in with friends to the simple act of lighting a candle with every meal. Hygge is being aware of a good moment whether it’s simple or special.”
The Danish word has no direct translation into English. “Cozy” is as close as we can come. A fuller definition is, “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Hygge is a flannel shirt, cashmere socks, candle light, down comforters, hand-knit sweaters, hot coco, sitting around a fireplace with good friends on a stormy night.
Sounds new-wavish to me. None of my acquaintances in the senior center have used it yet, nor are they likely ever to. Hygge derives from an earlier Norwegian word, the same root as the English word “hug,” which helps to remember it. It does fit a niche for which there is nothing else, and it may catch on. At least six books about hygge were published in the United States this year, with more to come in 2017.
Many surveys show Scandinavians to be the happiest people in the world. Maybe they are on to something.
For me, hygge is the appeal of many old Judy Garland movies made in the 1940s, showing sunny bedrooms full of patterned wall paper, ruffled lace curtains, and window sashes that lift with brass handles (no screens or storm sashes, though). And a black maid to keep it clean. And a twinkly-eyed grandpa taking them all to the fair.
If I can get all of that by coffeeing with friends, I will. (Has “candling,” meaning to decorate with lit candles, become a verb yet? Detecting bad eggs does not count.)