No one knows better than the Danes how to burrow in on a cold night and revel in simple pleasures – hot cocoa, friends gathered around a fire, something sweet to eat. In most places around the world, we call this any night in winter, but the Danish have elevated it to a concept called hygge (pronounced hue-gah) – an obsession with the uncomplicated basics, and the art of making cozy. We have become avid followers of this Nordic practice, with aims to perfect its every nuance! The seasons are no stranger to flower farmer and mandala maker Melissa Glorieux, who let us into her four-hundred-year-old farmhouse for some fireside hygge and chatting. It’s cold here in the northeast and less warm (than usual) everywhere else in the U.S. – so it felt fitting to unpack a delightfully American approach to this charming Scandinavian pastime.
1. Set the stage
“Our house is suited for winter with its dark ceiling beams and weathered, wide-planked flooring from the 1600’s, so hygge suits us, especially living on a farm and paying attention to the seasonality we experience in New England. I love the layering effect of hygge, and not just on people. You almost can’t have enough pillows and warm, natural accents in every room – whether you live in a modern house or an old one like ours. Cozy isn’t just about the weather; it’s a feeling. Hygge is familiar; it’s friendly – the idea that no matter what is happening out there, you’re safe and happy with family and friends in here, together. So the décor has to express that welcoming sensibility.”
2. Natural Elements
“A fireplace or woodstove is the star of the show with hygge – but whether you have one or not, flickering candles and reflective mercury glass will also do the trick. The element of fire and warmth and glow is the goal – and achievable HYGGE with tea light’s dancing flames in beautiful candle holders. Danes burn more candles per head than all of Europe! So don’t feel guilty. It would take a lot to catch up with them.”
3. Relish simple pleasures
“Mindfulness is a big part of hygge – being present to how magical the simple things can be. Hygge reminds us to be mindful in appreciating the basics in life. Much like making mandalas. In many ways, they are symbiotic concepts. Staying warm, gathering in community, having something delicious to sip, the appreciation of whatever weather happens to be brewing outside – just loving it all. Even a storm is cause for celebration, because what is more hygge than cuddling up indoors while the wind whips through the trees and rattles windows? Gratitude and simplicity are essential for honest hygge. Fancy can visit another day, but this one is down to earth goodness.”
4. Earn your cozy
“An important aspect to relaxing inside is working for it! Nordic cultures love to say that ‘there is no bad weather, just improper clothing!’ and living in the northeast, I couldn’t agree more. Go for a walk, take the kids for a sled, spend a day on the slopes – hygge is so much better when you have the contrast of outdoors – and get to come inside. You’ll appreciate that mug of tea so much more after a brisk expedition!”
5. The more the…Hyggier!
“Being alone with a book, a warm blanket and a fire is pretty dreamy, and while hygge is possible when solo, the idea thrives in sharing the energies of community and friendship. One of the aspects I love about hygge is this bonding in appreciation for overlooked magic and joy in life. It truly is the more, the merrier when it comes to these nest-a-thons – especially when the group trades off bringing a card game, a potluck meal, a special hot drink or a record to play. Just invite friends – don’t’ make it fussy – reach out to the old ones, the new ones – the ones you haven’t seen in many busy months. No one can refuse an evening of storytelling by a stoked fire, Linzer torte in hand.”