Don’t be fooled by any sunny late mornings and early afternoons – autunm has blown in, hailed down on us and iced up our car windscreens. ‘Strictly’ is on the telly, the clocks have been put back an hour and there’s a nasty nip in the air. Get ready to hunker down! That means making sure that all the necessities for home comfort and cosiness are shaken out, brushed down, made ready and put in place to be nearby for seasonal duty. And don’t forget personal warmth and weather-proofing: it’s time to clean your winter boots and get your knits out!
The reason I’m reminding you is because, two years ago in autumn 2016, our standard and time-honoured response to achieving seasonal snugness was hijacked by the Danish cultural phenomenon of hygge (pronounced hooga). This is a serious and defining characteristic of Danish (and Norwegian) culture that permeates the way they live their lives throughout the year. It’s not just a design trend and it’s not just for autumn/winter.
The Danes have developed hygge, 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. Just as the TV detective drama or thriller is a way of dealing with the dark, by containing death and horror within a narrative structure, the hygge concept draws us away from the dark towards a comfortable place to gather to forget the outside world and feel good.
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 purely about starting a Scandi style and design craze, which was 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 we (sort of) did, as 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 deserved and 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 had enough scented candles to create the right ambience for bed, bathtime 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; to switch the heating on or to up the tog on the duvets. Nor, that corner lamps and soft furnishings help to create a cosy room in which to laze around with friends and family!
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 is the embodiment of the hygge concept, regardless of whether we ever manage to create it. When we want to be convivial, we love the romance and nostalgia of being around or close to a real fire, a wood-burning stove or an Aga; family celebrations with home-cooked food; silly games; a winter walk followed by a hot toddy; afternoon tea; a family picnic or barbecue, and beach games in the summer. 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.
Two years on, in 2018, with post-Brexit Britain on the horizon, and winter storms ahead, 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! 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.