guest post by Ann Beth Strelac. The Naked Epicurean.
I love Scandinavian lifestyle words, a lexicon of melange, of cadence and rhythm, often multisyllabic with hard gs and sometimes paragraph-long connotations.
Case in point,
⁃Lagom (lar-gohm): the Swedish word for balance--not too much or too little; just right
⁃Friluftsliv (free-loofts-liv): Norwegian for open-air life and the dynamic relationship humans have with nature
⁃Niksen (nix-en): the Dutch word for mindfulness while doing nothing (as opposed to mindlessness, as in dicking around playing video games). Meditation, if you will.
⁃Dostadning (doh-stahd-ning): Swedish for “death cleaning” or de-cluttering
⁃Kalsarikännit (cal-sar-y-cuhn-eet): the Finnish word for the anticipation of stripping down to your skivvies and drinking in the comfort of your own home, ie päntsdrunk (a personal favorite)
It is perhaps the most well-known but also the most misunderstood.
I have seen many commercials and magazine ads about making life more hygge. I watched and listened and then I chuckled to myself. How ironic that someone chooses to commercialize hygge. And how demeaning. Commercialization is the antithesis of hygge.
I was certain of what hygge is not, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what hygge is.
Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home
or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special….Hygge in its simplest form is really about being present.
How lovely is that?
Her blog post titled “What Hygge Really Looks Like” describes hygge as making “the ordinary day extraordinary through recognizing simple moments….to not just be present, but recognize and enjoy the present.”
My breakthrough of understanding hygge, however, came from the accompanying photo at the top of Beauchamp’s article. It features her mother visiting her great aunt at a care facility. There is visible peace and indisputable love between them as they share this intimate moment.
And that’s when I knew. That’s when I understood hygge.
Her post is my inspiration for sharing my own hygge post.
So what is my hygge?
It is eating traditional family heritage foods that were made by the very hands that held me when I was cold or scared or hurt. It is watching my mom make kourambiethes and butter layer after layer of phyllo as she made baklava every Christmas. It is sharing a cup of strong black coffee and koulourakia around a small linoleum table. It is the smell of fresh laundry on the line.
It is talking to gabby seagulls and watching clownish dolphins dip into the surf. It is overcast skies above an empty beach and pelicans like sentient cows, floating and bobbing on the waves. It is blanketed shoulders sitting around a cauldron of fire with the roar of the ocean’s waves in the background.
Hygge is chicken soup and noodles my grandmother rolled out and cut with her beautiful arthritic hands for the granddaughter who would slurp them down by the bowlful. It is listening to stories from long ago about immigrants who were proud and worked hard and believed in streets paved with gold.
It is the chocolate my papou made, heating and mixing, taking pride to precisely mold each bunny and piece of candy. The ginormous chocolate Easter eggs that he painted by hand with the tip of the icing bag. It is spending hours around the toy train set with the grandfather who modeled patience and passion.
It is road trips that seemed to take an eternity, off-key singing, backseat territory rivalry and competitive car-bingo games on our way to weekends and summers with family and friends. It is playing cards, looking for lizards and toads, and fishing from the lake that kept us cool when Georgia was hot.
It is sledding down snowy hills while holding on for dear life to the cousin in front of you. It is feeding the pigs, picking the corn, catching fireflies, tending to the bees. It is looking for clovers in the sweet Pennsylvania grass and chasing wild hares around the cherry trees.
It is eating kohlrabi straight out of the garden and shaving fresh horseradish onto a sandwich. It is picking wild mushrooms for the Christmas soup, and it is pressing the cabbage for the next day’s sauerkraut. It is gnawing on stalks of sugarcane while sitting on a porch swing.
It is Dad teaching me to notice the creatures in the shells we found at the beach---to pick them up and really look at them. To study the sand dollar and starfish as their little legs moved. To watch the scuttling fiddler crab as it threatened us with his one large claw. To contemplate the barnacles as they opened and closed with the tide’s rising and ebbing.
It is sharing laughter and joy and tearful loss. It is moments of gratitude. It is multiple families sitting at a dinner table with a disproportionate number of chairs because our hygge meant being all together at one table. And it still does.
Our hygge was being present. It was being grateful for each other and our time together. Time that was to be treasured and valued because it was the most important thing---not only at that moment but always.
No one was in a hurry. No one took for granted the precious and rare time that could be spent with those you loved and were so far away, the moments that felt like a mere blip in time. No one rushed off to be somewhere else; we understood the here and the now.
Hygge is not something to be bought or sold or commercialized. It is not a glossy ad or a check mark on a to-do list. Hygge is in you, a part of you that you share with the others.
It was difficult to select a featured image to represent my hygge because it is so abstract. How does one capture love and gratitude and mindfulness in one graphic? How does one capture what is in your heart and in your soul? Or capture such an integral part of you?
I chose to feature a simple but clear message from a charm on a necklace.
BE. HERE. NOW.
In a world where we are bombarded with flashing, quick, fast, instant gratification, why not try the adverse and slow down? Be present in the moment. Enjoy the now.
This is not a lecture; this is a reminder. I have my finger pointed at myself as I say all of this.
We must find balance.
Each day is a gift. Make each day a hygge day.
Let us all find and embrace our hygge.
Let us give pause to what is important.
Thank you for helping me understand, Alex.
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