While hygge can have many different definitions, the fundamental meaning lies in building sanctuary, togetherness and community. It is the feeling of belonging to the moment and to those around you. Feeling warm, safe, sheltered and comforted is the essence of hygge.
To hygge is to invite intimacy, warmth and connection. Hygge is about being, not having.
The word hygge may be new to you but it is a word that has been around for many centuries. The Danes, have been enjoying the art of hygge for many years, and it is often suggested that this explains why they continue to rank as the happiest country in the world.
But how did hygge become an identifiable practice?
Hygge has been practiced by the Danish for centuries. It is a word that tells the story of the backdrop to Danish life. The word originated from the Old Norse word hu, which means mind, thought and courage.
When the Danes were forced to cede a large portion of their land in the nineteenth century, they didn’t mourn the loss of their territory but instead were grateful for the land that they still had. At this point they began to identify with smallness and interior landscape. They came to idealize the lowlands and small islands that remained as their territory.
Today, the Danish people continue to be masters at appreciating what they have and how to make the most of it. They focus on the inner sphere of life; people, places, comfort and community.
The Danish national identity was also shaped by teachings of Nikolaj Frederick Severin Grundtvig, a pastor, poet, author, philosopher, historian, teacher and politician. He was one of the most influential people in Danish history.
His philosophy shaped a new form of national identity in the late nineteenth century. Grundvig embraced the values associated with personal freedom and he believed that national identity was about a sense of belonging.
During this period, there was also a shift in focus towards the comforts of home life and an emphasis on family life and togetherness.
So, the history of hygge lies in the history of Denmark and its prominent thinkers.
The Danes have kept this focus towards intimacy and well-being to this day. Hygge has become a concept and practice that facilitates this. It is part of everyday Danish life and many Danes believe that it could well be the true secret to happiness.
If you would like to learn more about Danish life and the secrets to happiness, read The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country for a greater understanding of hygge.