New trends often attempt to reverse issues caused by current trends. It’s no wonder then that after several years of living in an isolated, cold, high tech world, the Danish idea of hygge is becoming popular in the U.S. So what is hygge? Is it a good thing? More importantly, can it enhance your Christian parenting efforts?
Before we get too far, hygge is a Danish term pronounced hyoo gah (like the name Hugh and with a hard ”g” in the second syllable). There is no direct translation in English, which of course makes it feel more special and exotic to us. Probably the closest English words would be terms like cozy, homey, warm and fuzzy, comforting, embracing and the like.
While summers in Denmark are pretty close to my definition of perfect – not too hot and daylight hours that basically never end – the winters are cold and very, very dark. Areas like that in the U.S. often have extremely high rates of depression, but the Danes credit hygge for keeping their spirits high – consistently ranking as one of the happiest populations in Europe.
Just like many trends, hygge is not inherently good or evil. A lot depends upon the individual and how he or she incorporates the various common elements. For example, comforting foods and desserts play a large role in hygge. Eaten in moderation, there is nothing particularly wrong with cake. If someone trying to create a hygge environment eats an entire cake at every meal, however, then the sin of gluttony comes into play.
Personally, I believe adding elements of hygge to your home can create the loving Christian home atmosphere most of us want. It encourages children to want to stay home more and invite their friends over. It’s also great for entertaining and we know that hospitality is not only commanded in scripture, but leads to higher success rates in Christian parenting. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money to make your home more hygge. If you do decide to purchase items, IKEA can provide low cost items that are hygge since many other Nordic countries have similar ideas.
For a quick primer in hygge, you can read the book The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. In general, you want low lighting – like that from candles and fireplaces. Unplug from technology and wear comfortable clothes – the fuzzier and cozier the better, so break out the sweats, pjs and fuzzy socks. Food and people play a big role in hygge. Wiking suggests having people bring the ingredients for a meal and everyone work together in the kitchen to cook it (and yes, I too wonder how big their kitchens are). The food tends to be comfort food, so think pasta, potatoes, stews and desserts – their favorites are cakes and chocolates.
The people element is where things get interesting. Think friends and family with everyone having equal time in conversation. There is a sense of gratitude, harmony and a lack of arguments and drama in conversations. Think the perfect Norman Rockwell painting or episode of The Waltons and you are probably close to completing the hygge environment.
This social element has become rare in the U.S. over the last few years because of an anger that tends to accompany any discussion of differences, so you may need to make some rules that everyone agrees to follow until warmth and civility become habits again. The hygge ”rules” should be standard in your home – even when you don’t have guests. Loving, supportive interactions should be the norm in your grateful home.
And don’t forget hugs! The word hygge is thought to be linguistically related to the word hug and hugs are certainly hygge. Not only do they communicate your love for your children, but hugs can reduce stress and lower levels of aggression and anxiety. The old standard was eight hugs a day per person – at a minimum. Even if more recent studies question the exact number, it is still a healthy goal for your family.
So give hygge a try in your home and see what happens. Avoid any possible pitfalls, like gluttony, and embrace the good points. You may find your family is happier and you have more opportunities to teach your children the things God wants them to know.