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Sunday, December 30, 2018

Hygge- Why You Need it on PJSC podcast

First, I’d better tell you what hygge (pronounced hue-guh) means: it is a Danish word to describe a special moment or feeling.  There is no English equivalent word, but several put together can approximate this concept- cosiness, charm, happiness, ‘contentness’, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance, kinship, and simpleness.

And so, the conscious creation of a special moment in a certain time and place that such a wonderful feeling of intimacy and friendliness- that is hygge!  To me, it is a type of motionless, indoor forest walking; consciously becoming one with your simple environment and your companions in a moment of shared contentedness.  I like the concept of ‘cozy’ most of all- as in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge is shown by the ghost of Christmas Present the little kitchen of Bob Cratchett, in which sits his entire family including Tiny Tim.  The kitchen is humble, and the family is poor, but they are all happy together, celebrating their thrifty Christmas dinner.  Scrooge is touched, he doesn’t know it, but he is witnessing Hygge, Victorian English style!

It is thought that the long, sunless winters in Denmark gave birth to this concept of the preciousness of hygge.  Small, delightful moments in one’s life can illuminate both the mind and spirit in the midst of even an otherwise gloomy existence!  Sprinkle enough bright moments throughout your day, and then each and every day can be a delight, filled with times to cherish.

My Christmas was absolutely wonderful this year, filled with a snowy landscape, candles in all the windows, and my family, both grandchildren included, playing with their presents about the tree.  I grilled a ham, slathered in orange marmalade, (I know, not too paleo, but it was Christmas!), and we had mashed sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and we’re all so full that no one wanted dessert- although we were able to eat some chocolates from the Sweet Shop in La Crosse’s north side, which were amazing.  They make their own candies with equipment that must have come from Dicken’s London, with real ingredients, from scratch!

Needless to say, that is a day of endless Hygge!  It is so much, that it wears you out, and you are happy to fall into bed.  But now, two days later: a day long rain has come, and the temps are in the 40’s- unheard of at this time in Wisconsin!  The snow has been washed away, but I have achieved hygge several times already today, even though it is still raining, and dark now, at 4:30 PM.  The electric candles in all the windows, and the lit Christmas tree helps, as did my book reading in my favorite easy chair, feet up and a cup of green tea by my side.  My wife sleeping on the couch, with two sleeping felines, one on the couch back, the other on her leg, and a small space heater blowing gently onto us both.  And I had just before gone down to the cellar, doing pushups on my gymnastic rings, and flies, and rows, then a series of isometric presses on the power rack- and so now, I was deliciously exhausted and content- hygge!

And so, you see you can achieve this state of hygge almost anywhere, if you set your mind to it.  It takes no money, very little time, and does wonders for your mood and state of mind- it’s rather like a form of meditation or prayer.  An attitude of gratefulness permeates you’re entire being.

I remember years ago, when I was a mailman.  It was a rainy, cold winter day, much like today, and I was soaked through.  I had heated up my lunch using the microwave at the old folk’s home on my route, and had parked along the shoreline of Lake Onalaska on a dead end road.  The dark waves tossed before me, and I cranked the heater in that mail truck onto high.  I unpacked my lunch of a small steak and veggies, mixed into white rice, and lit a small candle that I kept in my truck.  

That did it!  As the steam rose from the drying raincoat I had taken off and that was hanging beside me, I tasted the wonderful food, as the candle flame shed a golden glow across the drab interior of that ancient truck.  I didn’t see an eagle that day as I ate (I often did), but still, although I didn’t know the word to describe my feeling at that time, I do now-  HYGGE.