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Photo by izusek/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by izusek/iStock / Getty Images

A Word to Ponder for 2017: Hygge

The New York Times carried an article by Penelope Green on 12.24.2016 about the idea of getting cozy with friends and family. The story pointed out that the Danish practice of coziness is as integral to their culture as freedom is to Americans. I thought about that and wondered where the correlation was between the two cultural preferences, and rather than ponder that for too long, I kept reading, intent on learning more about hygge. The article defines hygge:

Hygge (pronounced HOO-gah, like a football cheer in a Scandinavian accent) is the Danish word for cozy. It is also a national manifesto, nay, an obsession expressed in the constant pursuit of homespun pleasures involving candlelight, fires, fuzzy knitted socks, porridge, coffee, cake and other people. But no strangers, as the Danes, apparently, are rather shy. Hygge is already such a thing in Britain that the Collins Dictionary proclaimed it one of the top 10 words of 2016, along with Brexit and Trumpism.

Candles, unscented, take front and center at all hygge events. The Danes burn twelve pounds of candle wax per person per year. The NYT story comments on the rampant use of fire as essential to hygge:

Where Americans see a fire hazard, the Danes see an antidepressant. The Danish word for spoilsport, Mr. Wiking notes, is lyseslukker, “which literally means, ‘one who puts out the candles.’”

As we venture out into this bold new year, brimming with possibilities and reeling with uncertainties, we can certainly add a heaping helping of hygge throughout the year to soften our days.

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Cover photo by Kathleen Franks

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