If you haven’t come across hygge yet then brace yourselves – it looks like being the Next Big Thing™. Frankly I shall be very surprised if the Danish concept of hygge isn’t being used to sell everything from breakfast cereals to loo rolls by Christmas – mindfulness had better watch out! I have to admit I’m not usually all that interested in ‘lifestyle’ titles but the selling points which publishers have used to promote their books on hygge (mostly involving curling up with a good book, a big mug of tea and a cheeky slice of cake) intrigued me. Hygge is one of those untranslatable words – like joie de vivre or schadenfreude – which can only be described in longer explanations. The one-word attempts I’ve seen include ‘cosiness’ (which doesn’t really include the ‘doing nice things for others’ aspect) or ‘conviviality’ (which totally misses the idea that you can hygge on your own) but I am starting to think that a concept this simple might need a much wordier explanation.
Brits’ Book of Hygge is an attempt to explain the way that Danes feel about hygge, about the philosophy behind it. Other titles on the subject give recipes ( for the essential cake part of the whole experience) but this book focusses on the actions, feelings and even the sociopolitical background to hygge. It does still talk a lot about candles and cake (of whatever variety takes your fancy I guess) but also about how Danes feel about social equality, fairness and family. It is not a strict guide to how to make your life full of hygge but it gives lots of examples of what is and isn’t hyggelig (and also, to my great joy, a sort of a grammar of the word hygge – I’m a simple soul really). One of the main concepts which I will take away from reading this book is that it is worth taking time in each day to just think, to relax and to take care of your own comfort and happiness. I’ve never been much good at the whole mindfulness thing – focussing on my inner state and almost stepping out of reality seems really hard – so I like the idea that, with hygge, you can take a moment for yourself while being fully aware that, in time, you will need to return to real life. This is a lifestyle which suits actual life. And, of course, involves cake.
I expect to be selling a lot of books on hygge in the run-up to Christmas. And I’m really, really hoping that 2017 will be the year I get to Denmark to try it all out for myself.