Hygge (pronounced hoo-guh)
Imagine the sound you make when clearing your throat and you should get it right. It may sound funny, but it’s the hip thing these days, though far from being a fad, it’s growth in popularity is not with out good reason. Some say it is not translatable into the English language, they say, a similar word seems to be cosy, and though that describes a portion of hygge it’s far from the whole thing.
I’ll leave it to the hygge pro to sum it up in a paragraph..or two.
Hygge has been called everything from “the art of creating intimacy,” “coziness of the soul,” and “the absence of annoyance,” to “taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things,” “cozy togetherness,” and my personal favorite, “cocoa by candlelight”.
Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down. You may be having an endless conversation about the small or big things in life- or just be comfortable in each other’s silent company- or simply be by yourself enjoying a cup of tea. –The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
Another description I personally resonate a lot with calls it the art of slowing down and enjoying the little things with people you love. If it was something tangible (but it’s really so much more)it may be loved ones around a fire, hot cocoa, woolen socks, natural materials, nature walks. etc. Now that you have a feel of what hygge is, maybe you can relate to my fondness of wanting this environment. Who wouldn’t? So what does hygge have to do with Christmas? Like, almost everything…going back to Mr. Wiking now.
For many people- Danes included- Christmas is a wonderful time. However wonderful is far from the only word used to describe it. If you ask people of any nationality to describe Christmas in one word, adjectives like happy, cheerful, warm, and heartfelt would probably surface. Danes would agree with a lot of these. But, they would object, “the most fitting word is missing. You forgot hyggelig!” …
Even though it is possible to hygge all year round, only once a year is hygge the ultimate goal of an entire month. Without achieving hygge, a Dane’s toil for the Christmas project is redundant. Chestnuts, a fireplace, friends, and family coming together around a table of delicious treats; decorations of red, green, and gold; the fresh scent of pine from the Christmas tree; carols everybody knows; and the broadcasting of the very same TV shows as last year- and every year before that- these are features of a fairly ordinary Christmas all over the world.
Indeed there are Christmas traditions which are specifically Danish, but a Danish Christmas is not considerably different from a German, French, or British one in terms of activities or traditions.
What is different in Denmark, though, is that a Danish Christmas will always be planned, thought of, and evaluated in relation to the concept of hygge. At no other time of the year will you hear Danes mentioning hygge as much. It is literally mentioned at any given opportunity. And, of course, Danish includes a compound word julehygge (Christmas hygge), which is both an adjective and a verb. “Do you want to come over for some julehygge?” –The Little Book of Hygge
He dedicates a whole chapter or so to the preparations, sharing in detail the recipe for a hygge worthy Christmas. Most of my readers know that I am Catholic, and the central focus of our Christmas and outcome of Christmas happiness is based on the birth of our Lord. This book is obviously not going into that, but when I read this chapter on a hygge Christmas I was thrilled, and I’m going to tell you why..jah! But first you should read the necessity of the turmoiling preparations to make a hygge Christmas even possible.
All the preparations for a hyggelig Christmas are quite often stressful and, indeed, not very hyggelige. Now, this may seem a bit contradictory, but it actually makes sense. Hygge is possible only if it stands in opposition to something which is not hygge. It is essential for the concept of hygge that it constitutes an alternative to everything that is not hyggligt in our everyday lives. For a brief moment, hygge protects us against that which is not hyggeligt. There must be an anti-hygge for hygge to be valuable. Life might seem stressful. It might seem unsafe and unfair. Life is often centered on money and social status. But life is none of these things in moments of hygge.
In this way, achieving hygge would not be possible with out all the bustle and turmoil leading up to Christmas. All the money, stress, work, and time being sacrificed in the preparations for Christmas leads up to hygge as a climax. Hygge is postponed in order to be accomplished. –The Little Book of Hygge
This all sounds incredibly secular, though I get it! Even if you’re not into hygge (unless you’re a Grinch) Christmas preparations take work, though they don’t necessarily have to be stressful and the like. I’m not actually sure if this author is a Christian or not,though that’s besides the point, as he has given us a crystal clear example from a completely secular point of view, the value and necessity of the Advent season for a successful Christmas.
I love Christmas. But I hate that Christmas isn’t celebrated in the Christmas season . As soon as Thanksgiving is over, and sometimes before, “Christmas” starts to be celebrated all over the country. “In this way, achieving hygge would not be possible with out all the bustle and turmoil leading up to Christmas.” In this way, receiving the true mark of Christmas on your heart and soul from our Infant Christ on Christmas morning would not be possible with out preparing our hearts and souls in the Advent season. The turmoil is necessary. Christmas is postponed in order to be accomplished. Yet the secular world ignores this season given to us by Christ. As with most things, they miss the mark, cheapen the value, and lose the meaning. And what a shame that is.
Advent is a special and beloved time. We are not only preparing our hearts for the coming of our Lord, but we do also take care of the more secular duties. Christmas baking, gift making and getting etc. But except for the special feast days, like St. Nicholas’ and St. Lucys’ it is not a time for feasting. It’s easy to be distracted and swept into the holiday mood with premature Christmas music and holiday decorations up everywhere you go, but the struggle is worth it. Remember as true followers of Christ you will always be going against the way of the world. And the worlds way is skipping advent in this case.
He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth Matt. 12:30
We turn off the radio and sing our own hymns, O come O come Emanuel, and focus our hearts on the empty manger waiting for our Redeemer to come.
Tomorrow will mark the 3rd Sunday of Advent. It’s never too late to “make straight the way to God within”. He’s waiting for you.
One of my favorite Advent hymns:
On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
Announces that the Lord is nigh;
Awake and hearken, for He brings
Glad tidings of the King of kings.
Then cleansed be ev’ry heart from sin;
Make straight the way of God within;
Oh, let us all our hearts prepare
For Christ to come and enter there.
To heal the sick stretch out Thine hand,
And bid the fallen sinner stand;
Shine forth, and let Thy light restore
Earth’s own true loveliness once more.
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
Whose advent sets Thy people free;
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Ghost forever more.
Have you ever heard of Advent and do you partake in it? What about hygge? If you have your own word or meaning for hygge I’d love to know it!
If you found this post helpful, share it for a friend!