Hygge Can Be Holy
Hygge: it made the Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 Word of the Year shortlist and it’s a hashtag on Instagram with almost 6 million posts, but what is it, really? And how on Earth do you pronounce it?
Contrary to what you’ve seen on Instagram and Pinterest, hygge isn’t merely an interior decorating scheme, nor just a concept of cozy living. It’s a concept and way of life that can be an inspiration to holiness in our own lives as Catholics.
What is hygge?
Let’s start simply: it’s a Danish word that is pronounced “hoo-ga”, and for the country of Denmark, it’s more than a concept, it’s a way of life. VisitDenmark.com defines it as “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.”
Hygge is a way of living that pursues simplicity and comfort, nature and relaxation -- whether indoors or outdoors, winter or summer. It’s a way of life that slows down and takes time to appreciate loved ones and the little things in life through authentic experience.
Hygge in Practice
It’s all about creating a comfortable, simple, familiar atmosphere. Here are a few examples you can emulate in your own home:
- Get comfy: Light candles, or better yet -- light your fireplace or build a bonfire. Comfortable clothes, especially bulky sweaters and thick socks in the winter, are especially hygge-material! Read a book by yourself, or gather friends for an evening of board games.
- Go outside: Nature is a key element of hygge. Go on a leisurely (that’s the key: leisure) walk in the woods, or sit on your front porch listening to the rain. Hygge is just as applicable in the summer, when you can ride a bike or have a picnic.
- Eat great food: Share a home-cooked meal with family or friends, but be sure you’re cooking comfort foods. Drink something hot on a cold day, or bake homemade sweets.
In short, to be hygge, it doesn’t have to be fancy -- it just has to be authentic.
Hygge and Holiness: How?
Hygge is something that can be pursued and lived at any time of year -- but regardless of the season, all things hygge have a few commonalities that also have strong parallels to the spiritual life.
One parallel is simplicity. Hygge requires simplicity -- like enjoying a hot drink, a leisurely walk through the woods, or playing board games with friends. It reminds us that the spiritual life does not demand extravagant things from us -- rather faithfulness and authenticity in the little things.
Nature, too, is a key part of hygge -- a quiet bonfire or listening to the rain from your front porch are the epitome of hygge practices, whether in winter or summer, and can foster a sense of comfort and peace. As Catholics, quiet, relaxing time in nature can also be for us a time of contemplation, one in which we appreciate God’s creation and seek Him within it. In the words of St. John Chrysostom:
“From the creation, learn to admire the Lord! Indeed the magnitude and beauty of creation display a God who is the artificer of the universe. He has made the mode of creation to be our best teacher.”
Hygge, and a life of faith, call us to be present in every moment. Scrolling mindlessly through one’s phone or rushing through mealtimes isn’t conducive to hygge -- or holiness! But focusing on the comforting atmosphere we’ve created, whether alone reading a book or sharing a meal with family and friends… that’s an atmosphere that is hygge, and one in which we can find God and hear His voice.
And in a unique way, cultivating hygge by being present to family and friends, sharing homemade meals and authentic experiences helps us live our our call to hospitality as Christians. Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “Welcoming our brothers and sisters with care and willingness must not be limited to extraordinary occasions but must become for all believers a habit of service in their daily lives.” Creating a welcoming environment in which we are fully present to those we love is, arguably, one of the best ways to practice Christian hospitality.
Live Hygge, Live Holy
Hygge isn’t about buying new throw pillows or making purchase after purchase to keep up with certain Pinterest boards or Instagram hashtags. It’s about cultivating an atmosphere -- and for Catholics, this can be an atmosphere that helps us slow down, find God in the little things, and be good stewards of the gifts we’ve been given, whether those are our living space, time, or our attention.
How do you practice hygge in your own home? How has it impacted your faith?