Swift: Have you 'hygged' your home today? Practicing the Danish art of relaxation

Tammy Swift, columnist. The Forum
Tammy Swift, columnist. The ForumThe Forum

Those crazy Danes. They seem to have it all figured out.

One of the greatest foods in the world — the Danish — is named after them. They give moms and dads a combined total of 52 WEEKS of maternity leave. They invented Legos, and they eat an average of 42 sausages a year. No wonder they routinely rank near the top in global polls that measure things like happiness and quality of life.

Maybe it’s the hygge. Hygge — pronounced “hooga” — loosely translates into creating a sense of feeling as cozy, comfortable and happy as possible. It’s officially defined in the Oxford dictionary as “A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”

It also translates into being a little more mindful and present in your daily life, by practicing little rituals that make the ordinary feel special. This could range from sitting down to dinner with family and putting technology aside to purchasing flowers or brewing tea in real china cups.

The Danes have made hygge part of their cultural fabric since the 18th century, but it became a worldwide phenomenon a few years ago when books like Meik Wiking’s “The Little Book of Hygge” hit the market. No sooner did we hear about the soul-soothing effects of hygge than we turned it into a blood sport.

With classic Western competitiveness and zeal, we began selling cozy hyggebakser (translation: comfy pants) for $49.95 and redecorating our homes with sheepskin rugs, indirect lighting and hyggekrog (that’s a special, book-lined “relaxing nook,” which really is relaxing until you get the contractor’s bill). It’s simply a matter of time before ESPN2 unleashes "X-TREME NINJA HYGGETHON!," in which contestants are challenged to chug the most hot cocoa and to bake the most soothing cardamom cookies while also fiercely outnapping each other.

Recently, I decided to get hygge with it. (Sorry. I find I like to mispronounce it so that it rhymes with “jiggy.”) I dedicated an entire day to hyggelig (hygge-like) pursuits. But there was so much to do, buy and learn.

It seems ridiculous to invest in hyggebakker when my life has already been dedicated to finding slacks that look like pants but feel like scrubs. I slip on one of my 19 pairs of black, plush Calvin Klein yoga pants and congratulate myself on money saved.

Hygge is also about comfy socks, but I haven’t done laundry in a while. I settle for the first socks I can grab: a fuzzy Santa sock I found under the bed and another sock that, quite frankly, I wore the day before. (It seems so uhygge — that’s “anti-hygge”— to match socks.)

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I remain in the large, pink, fuzzy robe that instantly makes me look like a crazy cat lady.

I received a new Ninja coffee station for Christmas, and it contains a milk-frothing option that makes me feel like a world-class barista. I make myself a coffee that is about 1/4-cup coffee and 3/4-cup exuberantly frothed milk.

I start brainstorming on hygge-worthy treats. I find a blog of hygge-sanctioned recipes that fit the criteria of being comforting and decadent, yet still easy to make.

Among all the recipes for maple-almond porridge and Nordic salmon toast, I am especially drawn to a rugelach recipe. It looks fantastic, but the recipe contains 19 ingredients, requires making a cranberry port jam (you know, for all those people who have port lying around the house) and calls for the procurement and exfoliation of an organic vanilla bean.

I realize I’m running out of hygge-time, and this day is not going to hygge itself. It might be easier to make one of those box cakes-in-a-mug, which are the ultimate invention for the hopeless sweet tooth with little attention span or interest in cholesterol levels.

With apologies to the fire marshal, I light a few candles and turn off the overhead lights. This seems so much more appealing than Kondo-ing my home. The “how to hygge” article in Self magazine did say relaxing in front of TV was OK, right?

I find the classic-movie channel is an instant stress-buster, so I flick on a 1930s screwball comedy and smile blandly. With my dog and a good book beside me, I sit there, basking in hygge-osity.

And then I realize something: I pretty much do this every weekend. I am already a certified hygge-ologist. Go figure.

I was hygge, when hygge wasn’t cool.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com.