May 17, 2021

PAPERWORK: How to hygge those winter chills and blues

Apparently we are snuggling into hygge season.

Key word being snuggling. It’s integral to the definition of hygge.

“Hygge” is a significant word in the Danish culture. It’s pronounced hue-guh and fits well with the words “coziness” or “comfort.” It reflects a feeling of wellness and contentment.

I’m quoting writer Cory Stieg who wrote a piece for to show how hygge has become a lifestyle movement outside Denmark.

“Since the word entered the American lexicon, hygge has become a full-blown, Instagram-worthy lifestyle filled with warm blankets and glowing candles,” she said.

The Danish see hygge as a lifestyle concept.

“They’ll probably say hygge is socializing with loved ones at home, snuggling in warm clothes, feeling sheltered and safe, enjoying indulgent foods, drinking mulled wine and soft lighting,” Stieg says.

She quotes Meik Wiking, a happiness researcher from Copenhagen, whose book “The Little Book of Hygge” was published in 2017:

“What is uniquely Danish is that we have a word that describes that situation. But there are similar words around the world that I think captures some of the same things.”

Stieg noted Wiking’s book sparked a growing interest in hygge. Details and images of “… piles of blankets on a bed, candles in their home, mugs of steaming cocoa and chunky knit socks” spread through social media.

A Broadway musical includes a song called “Hygge” with lyrics: “Hygge means comfortable, hygge means cozy, hygge means sitting by the fire with your cheeks all rosy.”

The concept also has gone commercial with candles, board games, home goods — even monthly delivery of a “Hygge Box.” (Type the word into It’s all there. For sale.)

Yeeesh. This is to be expected, of course. Who says you can’t put a price tag on happiness?

Yes, I checked it out. Those hygge boxes are heavy into candles, cookies and soothing warm drinks. I can walk around my house and fill my own box. Because if you’re like me, your house is filled with hygge toys.

Now would be a good time to introduce Alex (no last name offered.) She created the web site to encourage others not to buy hygge.

“It’s not a thing and anyone telling you different either doesn’t understand it or is literally trying to sell you something that has nothing to do with the concept,” she says.

Alex has Danish roots and says the Danes created hygge to survive boredom, cold, dark and sameness.

“The undefinable feeling of hygge was a way for them to find moments to celebrate, acknowledge and break up the mundane or harsh,” she explains.

“With so many cold, dark, days, the simple act of lighting a candle and enjoying a cup of coffee could make a huge difference to one’s spirit.

“It literally only requires consciousness, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present — but recognize and enjoy the present,” she said.

Alex talks about the importance of creating simple rituals as part of your day … actions that make you feel good, relaxed.

For me, like many others, that’s a hot cup of coffee as I look out on the day.

Yes, I do love me some hygge. It’s that time of year. Dark and cold days go well with hygge.

It’s all about wrapping yourself in a fuzzy warm comfort zone. And what better time for that then the holiday season.

In fact, push the pause button. I’m going to find a candle, right now, to add some proper glow to my words. Back in a sec … .

… Done. Ahhh. Feel that warmth. The glow. The beauty of flickering flames.

The distraction. … Ha. Just kidding. But I do need to move on.

I applaud the Danes for embracing hygge. It’s a security blanket we all seek, no matter what word we use to describe it.

There’s a reason many homeowners crave a fireplace and it involves more than heating the room.

I admit I find comfort (yes, fuzzy comfort) by putting on a fireplace channel on my living room TV. Comes with crackling, spitting fire embers, with or without holiday music.

Even makes the room feel warmer. I. Kid. You. Not.

Soon the Christmas tree will be up. Decorations scattered around. The best part is the end of day, all lights off except the tree. Then me thinking about the days when the kids were hugged and tucked into bed.

Yeah, I feel the hygge vibe. To me it blends with the holidays.

After the holidays, well then … I’m not sure. It fades a bit. Winter bites. Cold reality.

Although I find comfort sometimes when the day — or night —is still and snow is falling steady, thick and quiet … and brilliant white.

It’s cleansing. For a moment I forget about road conditions or shoveling.

That simple moment, the feeling of awe even though I’ve seen it before, is not something you can put in a box.

Call it hygge if you want. Maybe it doesn’t need a word.

Hey, it even feels good to think about it as I write this.

Yeah. But the day calls. Things to do.

So, guess I’ll blow out that candle now.

Well … actually, maybe I’ll let it burn … just a bit longer.

LONNY CAIN, of Ottawa, is the former managing editor of The Times, now retired. Please email thoughts, comments or ideas to or mail care of The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.