The clues are all there: floods, frost, fog and a flipping Christmas Fayre in November. (How many more times – it’s too early!) We’re in the grip of Autumn and it’s time to clean your winter boots and get your knits out!
Last autumn I wrote about how, in 2016, our time-honoured response to achieving seasonal snugness was hijacked by the Danish cultural phenomenon of hygge (pronounced hooga). This is defined in English as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being,” as a means of forgetting troubles and the darker aspects of life. For the Danes it’s not just a design trend and it’s not just for autumn/winter. Hygge permeates the way they live their lives throughout the year.
The trendsetters who picked up on hygge and sought to sell the concept to us, were picking up specifically on the popularity of the Scandi-noir detective/thriller drama in Britain. But, this was primarily about starting a Scandi style and design craze, duly paraded and pumped-up in prestigious publications. Would us Brits embrace hygge-style, buy the candles, and cushions, and be embraced back by our new cashmere throws and Scandi sock-slippers?
It turned out that this style-over-substance imported craze was timely: hygge inadvertently and unexpectedly chimed with the post-Brexit vote zeitgeist. In autumn 2016, we Brits were in need of some cosy content and well-being! If nothing else, the hygge concept reminded us that we could create it ourselves. What’s more, we’d been doing it for as long as we could remember! I’m pretty sure that in 2016, most British households already knew that corner lamps and soft furnishings help to create a cosy room. And already had enough scented candles to create the right ambience for bed, bath time or just chillin’. And no self-respecting Brits would have needed to be reminded by our friends across the North Sea that, once it turns a bit chilly, we must have a selection of woolly jumpers, scarves, hats and gloves to wear – we are a nation of knitters! Or to switch up the heating and the tog on the duvets.
I think that we Brits are experts at closing the front door and getting cosy, at any time of the year. With family, friends, or even on our own. The ideal, traditional British family Christmas, for example, is the embodiment of the hygge concept: the romance and nostalgia of a real fire, or woodburning stove; home-cooked celebration food; silly games; a winter walk followed by a hot toddy. Activities chosen to make us feel warm inside, cossetted and close to each other.
Whether we are on our own, or with someone else, our well being and contentment can be improved by a candle-lit bath; a duvet day reading a good book and eating chocolate; a visit to a luxury spa, or a quiet and cosy night in watching TV or Netflix in our brushed cotton pyjamas and fluffy socks, with a comfort blanket nearby. Perm any of the above to create your own preference.
Three years on, in autumn 2019, Brexit is yet again postponed and a General Election, that may make no difference to the situation, is just weeks away. In these circumstances the Dutch concept of niksen, the art of doing nothing, may chime more loudly with us at the moment. But, yet again, in stand-still Britain I feel that we have already mastered this. We don’t need a new Dutch style craze to point the way to additional or more extreme do-nothingness, or the fashion/ home accessories to accompany the like. Whatever.
And we don’t need the Danes to remind us to take care of ourselves, and each other by creating cosy contentment and wellbeing whenever we can. We are good at this! As I said last year, forget hygge and remember instead a small English word, often spoken but not necessarily acted upon: HUG (verb and noun): 1. Clasp, cuddle, embrace, squeeze, hold tightly in one’s arms; 2. Keep close to.
24 November 2019