Even before we were all trapped indoors with our children for the foreseeable future, we had heard plenty about the Danish philosophy of living called hygge. We know about the wool socks and the candlelit evenings. Many of us have even made plans to live a more hyggeligt life, gathering our kids around the fireplace and indulging in hot chocolate daily.
If you haven’t heard much about hygge, pronounced “hoo-gah,” here are the basic facts you need to know: It’s a Danish thing we’ve become obsessed with in the States. The word doesn’t really translate into English, but some describe it as cozy and others as togetherness. To live a hyggeligt life is to embrace simple things without frills or extravagance. In her book, The Year of Living Danishly, author Helen Russell describes it as an absence of things that are annoying or associated with negative emotions. Who doesn’t want to live a life like that?
There are tons of reasons hygge is so great, but there is one that tops the rest — and it isn’t the hedgehog tea cozy you’ve been eyeing on Etsy. In my opinion, the real reason I’m ready to embrace hygge because it’s really just a snazzier way of saying you’re staying inside and doing nothing. The hygge life is just as much about being lazy as it is about cozy togetherness. For that reason, hygge is the best thing to happen to moms who actually didn’t want to go outside in the first place. And I am one of those moms.
Last week, when we got a few inches of snow, I bundled each of my kids up in their winter paraphernalia. I started sweating as I shoved miniature fingers into miniature mittens. I may have shouted, “Just keep your hat on!” more than once. I considered bailing on the entire operation, but I gave myself a pep talk and we all made our way into the great outdoors. There were snow angels and snow day selfies. It was magical, really. Until someone got snow in their boots 10 minutes in and started freaking out. (It was me.)
That was when I got it. A light bulb came on for me when I realized that I could choose laziness without guilt. I could choose hygge. I could throw off our snow pants, bury them deep in our laundry room, and just stay inside. In the name of hygge, I could take any so-called “lazy” parenting practice and turn it into a practice of cozy togetherness.
In fact, I’ve been inspired by the Danes to create a few hyggeligt traditions of my own. Like so:
God nat brinner: the hyggeligt practice of opting for breakfast for dinner instead of cooking a “real meal”
Gå væk: the tradition of spending absurd amounts of time alone basking in your introversion and saying no to any obligation that seems annoying or uncomfortable
Jeg elsker dig television: the love of TV, or piling your kids on the couch with a mound of blankets and calling it “cozy television”
Jeg er allergisk over for udendørs: a winter-long hiatus from outdoor activities, observed primarily by Midwest families who dislike the cold
- Alle dag pyjamas: leaving your kids in their pajamas all day long
- Brød brød brød: That warm feeling you get when you eat mostly bread during the cold winter months; see also: carb loading
So Denmark, darling, I suppose I have you to thank for my new lease on life. This spring, thanks to you, I’m embracing all the hygge my heart desires in the form of a lot of reading on the couch and long naps in the afternoon. You may call it laziness and social isolation, but I’m calling it my season of living Danishly.
A version of this story was originally published in January 2017.