Hygge: Bloggers’ appropriation of Scandinavian tradition (that I absolutely adore)

Hygge (hoo-gah) is one of the most popular trends on Pinterest, Instagram, and blogs for white women to show off their comfy blankets, pumpkin scented candles, and cakes. Starting around November and moving throughout the winter months, these blogs claim that the secret to living a good life and being happy especially when the sun is gone is through the concept of “hygge.” What started off as a foreign cultural practice in Denmark and in Scandinavian countries (though by other names), has been doctored up over here in the states to give people an excuse to eat stew and cakes and drink hot chocolate and alcohol.

Before American bloggers commercialized hygge, Danes gathered together in the dark hours of the evening to spend time with one another. And while Danes do burn the most candles out of any nation in the world, the focus of hygge is togetherness. But what brings people together, out into the snow and the frost, other than warm drinks and rich food?

My gut tells me to stay away from hygge and especially about blogging about it for all sorts of reasons. First off, we can hardly claim to be practicing “hygge” if we’re really just eating rich foods and lighting a bunch of candles without making a lifestyle change. Second, big sweaters, warm and sugary coffee, and pretending to love being in nature are so pervasive in young, white girl culture that they are approaching the point of irony (by way of pumpkin spice flavoring and dresses with pockets). Third, I’d like to craft an image of myself that’s fairly serious and focused on world-changing issues and a comment on how I bring hygge into my life when literally hundreds if not thousands of other bloggers have already done it is hardly that.

But today it snowed in my home town, I wore a coat for the first time, my toes are cold, and I need some soup. And so: hygge.

How do I hygge in my tiny apartment in a city that until recently has been oppressively hot? Plenty of conventional ways. I have candles all over the apartment. Some people hint that we might be approaching too many candles in our apartment, but with the prices at Goodwill how could I resist? We have candles in lots of warm, earthy colors in groupings of three or four spread around enough to where we can avoid the overhead lights and use only candlelight and the draped Christmas tree lights hung over the loveseat.

(On a side note – the best thing about the apartment is how everything sticks to the walls. I have lights taped up with masking tape that has held on throughout all sorts of humidity and temperature changes.)

I also love good mulled wine, simmering soups and pasta sauces, warm cardigans and blankets, and tea. What about some unconventional hygge? Those things that exude comfort but don’t usually show up in Buzzfeed-like lists. I’m thinking of things like board games, phone calls, and walks in the freezing cold snow. As many of you know, Henry’s job requires a lot of travel, but when he’s home we play one board game specifically at least once. In it, we work together to rid the world of diseases. The fun thing about Pandemic is it’s collaborative, not competitive, building the sense of harmony and togetherness that hygge pushes for. When Henry’s not home, we spend evenings on the phone, and hygge is all about being with the ones you love!

IMG_1099But one thing I love that seems under-appreciated is being outside during the first big snow of the year. You know the one – the one where it sticks for the first time and seems to accumulate right around your boots. I started this tradition my first year of college when I took a quick jaunt outside under the first big snowfall. There’s nothing quite like being a fully grown adult spinning on the sidewalk because it’s finally snowing. And even though hygge normally feels warm and cozy, sometimes a red nose and wet eyelashes can bring about the same contentment.

So what do you think? Is hygge too commercialized now to have any real meaning? Do you practice either hygge or other cozy rituals when the weather turns frosty? And most importantly, are you ready for Christmas?

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