Monday, April 18, 2011

On hygge

So I haven't been writing much lately, which is due to my non stop schedule. I'm a jet setter, didn't you know?
No, really, I owe posts on a plethora of things, so I'm going to start with my most recent adventures and work backwards, and we'll see how that goes hey?

So did you know I went to Copenhagen? Because I did and it was one of the most amazing cities I have ever visited. There is really too much to talk about in one post so its gonna get a BREAKDOWN!
Have you ever been to Denmark? In the winter? No- I haven't- but apparently its cold like woah. I mean, New York is cold, Chicago was cold, Quebec, well-we don't even have to talk about that, so I can holler at the idea of wanting to stay in and bundle up. In Denmark this is a way of life for their short winter days and braving the weather to go out is just not going to happen. From this self imposed pseudo imprisonment emerged a way of life that seems to permeate how people live year round. Its called Hygge, and defining it is impossible as there is no translation into English and not one Dane could give me a solid interpretation of it. When they talked about it they seemed to get lost in their thoughts. Trying to tack it down and give it a rigid definition is, apparently, besides the point, and also impossible. However its one of the loveliest things and I'm going to do my darnedest to get it right.
We stayed in this very adorable apartment in Copenhagen for the first couple of nights, and the woman whose apartment it was made it clear that the lit candles (it was day time) on the silver platter on the dining table were for us to use so please use them, just make sure you blow them out when you are done. So every night we used them. And sometimes also at breakfast.
It should be known that I am not really a candles kind of lady, and if you get me soap or lotion I usually re-gift that to someone else. I'm not really a girly girl in this regard, but something about doing candles while we had our mini dinner parties every night seemed right. Just like taking that five minute walk to the bakery every morning was exactly what I had to do because that fresh rye baguette made the room smell great and made our fresh eggs and cheese taste that much better. Which is almost impossible.
Then we went up North to spend two nights with Anette and Morton, Blaine's host parents from many years ago. Phenomenal does not even begin to describe the kind of hosts they were. The food they prepared for us every night was just SO GOOD. And again, there was a tray with a few candles on the table which got me to thinking, "Well is this, like, a Danish thing?" I eat up authentic local activities like candy when I travel, so I had to know- are candles on a platter a thing? So I asked.
"Well, no, not just candles, this is hygge."
And then I got schooled.
Basically it goes like this-
Hey, we're stuck at home, but lets celebrate that. You invite your neighbors, family, et cetera and have dinner together, sitting together around a table. Douse the lights and get the candles going. Eat until you're past full, drink until you are warm. We have to be home but we're making it special.
In attempting to write this post I did a little research about hygge and found this which seemed to adequately surmise the Danish inability to define hygge exactly. "Luckily, we didn't have to use near-synonyms like coziness, fellowship, security, reassurance or well-being. They just don't add up to hygge. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. "
So making dinner together with the music playing and glasses of wine is hygge.
You can't tell from this photo but every night Anette folded the napkins differently to create a little bit-o-hygge. But its not like she was trying- its just how it is. This is their lifestyle.
In writing this post I now realize how hard it is to nail down hygge and why my Danish friends had such a tricky time explaining it to me. Because it doesn't sound any different from being a good host, but it somehow is- and isn't. Its health and wealth and living life very fully. You make things comfortable and homey and welcome. You light candles and fold napkins and make sure there is always cheese to snack on. And hope that your new American friends, who eat dinner in front of their computers and grab the exact same lunch day after day in plastic take away tubs will somehow get it.


4 comments:

megandubmoore said...

This is very rad.

I think that there is almost the opposite of this in New York, as we are so prone to do so much of our living outside of our (tiny) spaces.

Viva la home-body!

be yourself said...

Great trip
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Yahya Bahr said...

The food looks amazing!