The lighting of a candle. A quiet meal with friends. Decorating the tree. Knitting for an hour each evening. The contented feeling kindled by each of these small rituals is the essence of ‘hygge,’ (pronounced, roughly, hoo-guh, it’s now in the English dictionary) the Danish word for the moment you realize something good is happening.
You can’t throw a snowball these days without hitting an article or book about hygge. Even the latest issue of National Geographic explores the scientifically verified soaring happiness quotient of the Danes!
While the closest English equivalent to hygge might be ‘coziness,’ the concept has more subtle aspects: the tangible—a mug of cocoa, wool socks, sprigs of evergreen; the intangible—candlelight in a window, the scent of spices, the satisfaction of working with our hands; and the philosophical—“choosing rustic over new, simple over posh, and ambiance over excitement” (so says the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen!).
You probably already have a hyggekrog, or a particularly cozy nook—just think of your favorite knitting spot. But what makes that corner the most comfortable, homey, hyggelig (translation: hygge-like) part of your house?
Perhaps it’s the location—perfectly situated near the fire or by that window with your favorite view. Maybe it’s the huggable pillows you have piled up, ready for a cuddle. (It’s no coincidence that the English word ‘hug’ is a distant descendant of hygge.) Or perhaps, from your armchair in that nook, all of your favorite things are in easy reach. A deliciously scented candle, a hot cuppa at your elbow, that old book you’ve read and reread—your yarn stash. Naturally, no hyggekrog is complete without your current knitting project (perhaps a pillow cover with a super-soft yarn and an engaging texture…).
That leads us to the most essential characteristic of a hyggekrog. What makes a spot hyggelig are the pleasant moments you spend in it—reading, sipping, knitting, simply watching rain on the windowpane or the flicker of a candle.
But hygge isn’t just something you experience alone in a nice corner—you’re almost guaranteed to find it among friends as well. It’s there as you get ready to host an intimate dinner, as you set the table with festive plates, laying out place settings in anticipation of guests. It’s in the scent of your home-cooked meal emanating from the kitchen. It’s right there in the clink of cutlery and cups, and in the pleasant conversation and laughter that encloses your gathering in conviviality.
Though hygge isn’t restricted to the winter season, it’s perhaps easier to feel it around this time of year. Chilly weather has us searching for the coziness in everything—and we’re presented with those moments almost as soon as the Christmas trees go up and the lights are strung. The peace and goodwill that’s in the room as your family gathers to decorate the tree or light the menorah are easily an extension of the spirit of cozy charm.
One of the cornerstones of hygge is pausing to recognize the contentedness that small rituals bring. And there’s no ritual more hyggelig—or more Churchmouse—than brewing a cup of tea. Like hygge, a good cuppa enhances both solitude and friendship. Each person approaches their tea a little differently. A splash of milk? In first? Or in after with a jolly good stir? Sugar? One lump or two?
This time of year, Churchmouse has a few tea traditions. Our Island shop hasn’t been fully trimmed for the season until the scent of holiday teas waft through the shelves. A few years ago, mint chocolate fans, Erika and Gregory, put their heads together to brew a peppermint and cacao concoction. Oliver Pluff & Co were in turn inspired to create their own and we’ve been addicted ever since! Whatever blend we brew, we’re quick to refill—and refill again (what the Swedes call a tretår, essentially, the ‘three-fill’).
And then there’s the accompanying biscuits! To dunk or not to dunk? A delicate, buttery biscuit that melts in your mouth? Or maybe you prefer something with a little more snap… Either way, the first bite is always a small miracle.
And really, recognizing those small miracles is all it takes to bring hygge into your home. All you have to do is be mindful of a good moment when it comes along, and take the time to enjoy it.