When is hygge not hygge? And do we have to name it to know it?

Did you ever see the comedy show Goodness Gracious Me? There is a sketch in there where the Dad explains why Christianity is Indian. He can look at it all and recognise the parts of the religion that are Indian, the making food stretch, the working for his dad, the idea that Moses was Indian. It’s funny, because when he says it you know he’s joking, but then you think… isn’t that what Christianity should do and often does do? Be adoptable to all nations and change according to the local circumstances while holding on to the central truths, of love, justice and dedication to others?

Hygge is a bit like that; it changes to suit local circumstances. What is currently hygge in the wintery Northern hemisphere is not hygge in the sun-swept southern continents, but we can see that ultimately the centre of hygge is the same in both: time spent out of ordinary life with or without people and recharging the batteries in a safe and secure place.

Which leads me to my question: is a thing hyggely by nature or by name? I’ve been reading a pile of articles, and there are a lot of them out there telling me that the things are hygge, with no account given to the fact that it is the feeling that is most hyggely. I’m worried that hygge is getting a bad press because it’s being seen as a Lifestyle trend, and that some of the most hyggely places and people I know won’t touch it with a barge pole because it is being treated as a ‘trend’.

One of my favourite reads is Country Homes and Interiors. I have a subscription, and I love having a hyggely moment when the book arrives, first flicking through it, then reading it cover to cover and then finally dipping into it article by article over the days. Reading the magazine can take a month, so by the time I have read, inwardly digested and mentally noted everything it’s time for the next one and I start again.

I’d count is as a magazine full of hygge. Even if they don’t mention it, it just is. But I also think it’s a magazine that could do much more for hygge. Let me explain. Here’s the editorial from the February edition.

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That’s an editorial just screaming out to me “Hygge! Let’s Hygge!” with its emphasis on downtime, just be, musing, cosy, cuddling and slow times. And yet no where does the editor use hygge. That must be a conscious decision, because I’m darned sure Rhoda, living and working her life in London, has heard the word. I’m pretty sure she knows that the cover has all the right key words to use hygge in a perfectly straight way, not ironically or with humour, but just because that’s the word that captures the feeling the book is trying to get across. Here are some extracts from the cover:

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And I read my magazine and loved it… but there was something missing. I couldn’t for the life of me see why hygge wasn’t being used… except there were no fur rugs or cashmere socks and, I fear, hygge has been too tied with them in the popular press and magazine output. That’s sad, because hygge as a word does tie up a lot of loose ends that would otherwise take more explaining. “I’m home to have a hyggely time with the family” is easier to say that “I’m going home to spend the evening playing cards and trying to get my teenage sons to talk, by taking their phones off them and making them look at me.”

I hope hygge is here to stay. I think as a society we need it, proper hygge, not a Lifestyle Trend.

 

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2 thoughts on “When is hygge not hygge? And do we have to name it to know it?

  1. I agree, I am reading a hygge book – on the bandwagon there – at the moment, BUT, reading the book it is not about the things that you might automatically think of. Hygge is much more than lighting a candle and throwing a blanket or two around the place. It is a way of life isn’t it. I hope that it doesn’t just become a phase, but is something that we can learn more about and take more into our hearts and our whole being.

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    1. Which Hygge book are you reading? There are some good ones… and some really bad ones out there! I think hygge, as a word, is here to stay. I just hope it’s here as a philosophy and not as shorthand for an interior design style.

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