Learn To Celebrate The Simple With This Nordic Lifestyle Trend
One of the immense joys of learning another language is stumbling upon a word or phrase without an immediate English equivalent; like the sheer delight that comes from finding out the German word ‘kummerspeck’ translates to ‘weight gained as a result of emotional eating’, or quite literally ‘grief bacon’. The Danes, too, have a bit of an ace up their sleeve in the form of ‘hygge’. Pronounced ‘hoo-ga’, the term describes a traditional Danish philosophy that encourages us to be kinder to ourselves, to embrace cosiness, and to celebrate the modest and familiar. It isn’t any wonder Denmark is often spotted gracing the top of ‘happiest country in the world’ lists.
According to author Charlotte Abrahams, hygge has been a Danish secret for far too long. In this extract from her new book, Hygge: A Celebration of Simple Pleasures. Living the Danish Way, she gives us a lesson in embracing the everyday in order to live a more hygge life.
Hygge is not about the high life. That doesn’t mean you have to eschew all things hedonistic, it just means that you can’t count a night of champagne-fuelled feasting and dancing as one of your weekly hyggelige moments. Which is good, as, for most of us, life offers more opportunities to celebrate simplicity than to indulge in excess.
Here’s 10 ways to celebrate the simple with hygge:
1. Make your morning coffee in a stovetop pot
Don’t do anything while it comes to the boil other than listen to the sound of the steam and breathe in that coffee-scented air.
2. And drink it in a mug that looks and feels good
Whether your taste is for hand-thrown and slightly wobbly stoneware, delicate fine bone china or a pint pot with your name on, drinking from a mug that pleases you aesthetically will enhance the experience no end.
3. Peg the washing out on a real line
It is not everyone’s idea of a hyggelig moment, I’m sure, but to me, hanging the washing in the garden and watching it flap in the breeze means that summer has come and the boys are home. Old-fashioned wooden dolly pegs add a finishing touch.
4. Pick your own
Inheriting a vegetable patch was a surprise joy of moving to the bungalow. I loathe digging and mowing the lawn, so I had never been a big fan of gardening, but I have discovered that picking vegetables that I have grown myself brings a primal pleasure. I stick to the easy stuff – herbs, those pick-and-grow again salad leaves, chard, rocket (all of which could be grown in a window box or pot outside the front door), because I don’t think there is anything very hyggelig about spending the weekends training things up canes. For me, it is all about gathering produce still warm from the sun and turning it into a salad to feed my friends. And watering; there’s nothing quite like the smell of cool water on hot soil.
5. Embrace the weather
The Danes are good at this. In summer they picnic and barbecue in the many public parks to make the most of the warm days and long, light evenings, but even in the winter you see them cycling through the rain and the snow and sitting wrapped in blankets outside cafés. They have a saying: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong sort of clothes’, and it’s true. So what if it’s freezing? Wrap yourself in an oversized sweater and go for a walk in the crunchy grass. Raining again? Put on your wellingtons and find a puddle to jump in. Come summer, head for the garden, the park, the beach, a town bench and spend half an hour just soaking up the sunshine.
6. Have a picnic
Eating sandwiches on the grass is a very fine thing indeed. Do it alone with a book or add wine and your favourite people. And why wait for summer? Picnics in the rain might be miserable, but a picnic in an autumn wood, all crisp leaves and russet colours, is an event to be savoured.
7. Light a fire
Or, if that’s not possible, you can create a similar effect with a mass of candles. Put them on the floor (standing on something fireproof like a tile) and pull some comfy chairs around them.
8. Bake something
The pleasures of baking are many and various. Beating and stirring are gentle activities requiring just enough concentration to keep your mind from wandering; the smells are glorious and fill the house with both comfort and promise and the end result is deliciously satisfying. You don’t need to make anything fancy; flapjacks will do, and if you want to be a little bit Danish, buy yourself a Margrethe mixing bowl. Invented in the 1950s, and named after Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, these melamine bowls are a design classic. They come in a range of lovely colours, too.
9. Fill a jug with flowers
If you can pick them yourself, do (creeping buttercups might be a nuisance in your flower beds, but they are joyous on the kitchen table), otherwise choose seasonal blooms with a heady scent.
10. Give yourself a sensory treat
A daily dose of sensory pleasure can only make you feel good. Cook your favourite food; run a bath filled with deliciously perfumed oils; pour yourself a glass of your favourite wine; light a scented candle; wrap yourself in a soft woollen throw. Sensory overload is not hygge, so focus on one sense at a time and give yourself over to the pleasure of the moment.
This is an extract from Hygge: A Celebration of Simple Pleasures. Living the Danish Way by Charlotte Abrahams, published by Hachette Australia, RRP $32.99.