Defining “Hygge”

1779301_10152138179680502_1263730929_nEvery year, our annual winter getaway with friends grows a little crazier.

More children. More bags. More dinosaurs, more story books, more baked goods I never, ever want to stop eating.

But this year, I went as a single parent. Jason has been sick for almost a month now, so he (very sadly) opted to stay home. I totally understood, but I was also a little desperate. I needed to double over in laughter with friends. I needed winter sun in my eyes and four feet of snow under my shoes. I needed towering pines.

I needed to broaden the narrows of my winter.

So I packed up three pack ‘n plays, two bumbo seats, a doorway jumperoo, three bags of food, two backpacks worth of clothing and diapers, five blankets, and three children under the age of 3 into the van.

In theory, it was possible. In reality, it was madness. In retrospect, it was very, very good.


1239733_10152138170690502_1027633142_n I read a great article a month or so ago about a mystical Danish word called “Hygge”, (pronounced HYU-gah). The word has no direct translation in English, but instead sounds like a conglomeration of emotions: well-being, contentment, camaraderie, coziness. The article says it’s kind of like Christmas, just not limited to once a year.

I was fascinated with the idea – this non-translatable word for something so meaningful. Really – when you have a second, you should definitely read the article. Anyway. I put it on my bucket list of words to study, ideas to play with.

I haven’t started the word study. (Go figure.) But after this weekend, I think I have a new word to add to the mix of not-quite-there-but-close definitions for hygge.


Because without collaboration, hygge can’t happen.

Without collaboration, I would have driven North alone, praying through clenched teeth that nothing would go wrong. (Instead, I caravanned with dear friends who drove out of their way to let us tag along.)

Without collaboration, I would have made seven or eight trips to unload my van. (Instead, four very kind gentlemen made an extra trip or two each to shuttle in my babies and belongings.)

Without collaboration, I wouldn’t have gotten to snowshoe in the woods, feed babies, make supper, take a shower, read bedtime stories, or ever really just sit down. (Instead, there were open arms and helpful hands in every situation – even the darkness stumbling, nook fumbling, face rubbing, please-just-go-back-to-sleep-for-the-love-of-everything-good-and-holy-because-it’s-bedtime moments.)

IMG_2881But it wasn’t just about helping me.

Collaboration is what makes weekends like this possible. From finding accommodation, to organizing meals, to bringing toys and gear, to caring for one another’s children, it is our combined efforts that create an environment for hygge to happen.

And in that moment, the glow of the fire, the children asleep, the roar of laughter, the pine paneled walls and windows full of stars, hygge comes. It widens our hearts. It fills us with thankfulness. It becomes the thing we can’t describe.

ab377e29-7a2c-4d0f-9c0e-ad7a59cb4d77.1.10Maybe that’s okay. This word hygge, this word with no translation – maybe it’s meant to stay nebulous, a little mystical.

Perhaps hygge’s blessing is simply the bright consciousness of experience, our windows blazing light against winter’s dark, our laughter rising through the chimney and spreading like sweet smoke into the night.


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