Hygge and Holy All Year Long
When we think of the Danish concept of comfort, coziness, and relaxed living -- called hygge -- we may initially associate it with winter. It’s hard to separate this concept from the idea of warmth by a fire, family gatherings, drinking hot tea under a wool blanket watching the snow fall.
But we don’t have to wait until winter to enjoy this cozy, authentic way of living and all its spiritual fruits. The truth is that living a hygge lifestyle and the holiness it can encourage isn’t a seasonal thing -- in fact, it’s something we can embrace all year long.
What is Hygge?
Several months ago we wrote about this funny word -- hygge -- and what it is. We explored how it isn’t just a mode of interior decorating, but how it can also have a strong connection to a well-lived spiritual life.
Hygge can be defined as, “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.” It’s a simple, authentic way of living -- one that isn’t in a hurry, but embraces the good things in life at a relaxed pace.
Living a hygge lifestyle means finding joy in the little and simple things, like nature, relaxing with a good book, the warmth of a bonfire, or fresh cut flowers. Comfort, nature, and good food are all elements of hygge. When we think of hygge in the winter, we may think of candles, bulky sweatshirts and warm socks, a leisurely walk in the woods, or drinking something hot on a cold day.
Other “hygge” practices that come to mind are lighting candles, building a warm fire, baking homemade sweets, or creating cozy spaces like breakfast nooks and reading corners in your home.
Hygge Isn’t Just for Wintertime
But hygge isn’t just a design trend for winter magazines and it isn’t meant to just be inspiration for winter home decor. It’s a way of life, and one that is very compatible -- even complementary -- to the pursuit of holiness for Catholics.
It calls us back to the simple and quiet moments of life, and invites us to be more present and authentic in everything that we do. St. Gianna Beretta Molla once said that, “Our task is to live holy the present moment.” Though this Italian saint lived long before hygge was a trending Instagram hashtag and popular aspect of culture, this quote does capture the essence of hygge!
Hygge as a concept runs parallel to the concepts of a rich spiritual life in a few areas. For example:
A Catholic striving to live authentically means he or she works to be intentional about everything. In other words, living authentically means not dressing up your home for show but for the peace and enjoyment you gain from living in a beautiful, neat and tidy home. It means leaning into family moments for their value and the quality time with loved ones, not the selfies you’ll take. And it means enjoying nature for what it is, not for the Instagram likes you’ll get when you post photos on social media.
Hygge means living authentically, too -- not rushing through meals but savoring the time and the food, leisurely enjoying a hike, rather than seeing how fast you can complete it, or taking the time to create a peaceful atmosphere in your home with candles or a few carefully selected throw pillows.
Embracing the present
Just as does our Catholic faith, the hygge lifestyle encourages us to let go of worry and not be in a hurry to do everything. St. Francis de Sales was a Swiss saint who lived centuries before the concept of #hygge came into existence, but he too understood the value of peaceful contemplation and interior silence:
“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”
Taking a hygge approach to life encourages us to surrender our concerns for the future, and instead live in the present moment -- and to not only live in the present moment, but to enjoy the small, simple aspects of that moment that make it enjoyable.
Hygge reminds us that we don’t need to buy fancy things to enjoy life in all its moments. Hygge emphasizes the authentic over the extravagant, and we can find a deep spiritual lesson in this. God is found in the small, the simple, and the quiet. A hygge lifestyle encourages us to zero in on what is important so God can work in the simple. Just because a walk in the woods or an afternoon reading under a shady tree is simple, doesn’t mean we can’t find God in these two very hygge-inspired instances.
Hygge Ideas for Your Summer
As we said, hygge doesn’t have to be lived only in winter! Here are a few hygge-inspired ideas for you to try this summer:
- Create an outdoor living space: Create an outdoor living space to enjoy on cool summer mornings or warm evenings. Candles, fire pits, bonfires, water fountains, and summer-themed patio furniture or decor can make the space truly your own. But again, it doesn’t have to be fancy. A picnic blanket in a shady spot with a few cool drinks is the perfect hygge example.
- Spend time in nature: Remember, the key is that hygge is leisurely. A nap in a hammock, a picnic in the park, a bike ride on a favorite path are all ways to intentionally enjoy time outside this summer.
- Enjoy summer foods: Think comfort foods, or summer classics. It’s hard to think of a better hygge example for summer than grilling in the backyard surrounded by family and friends, sipping a cool drink on a hot day!
Hygge All Year Long
At Wanderer Catholic, our spiritual lives are inspired by the basic tenets of the hygge approach to life: authentic living, embracing the present, memorable moments, and good food. Whether you spend an evening grilling, sipping a cool drink with friends or if you choose to sit on your front porch listening to the birds chirp in the sun, remember that even these simple moments can be hygge -- and holy.