That about sums us up alright

Work in Progress By Ivan Morgan

I bet you didn’t pick up your Shoreline this week expecting a language lesson.

The Norwegian word hygge (pronounced hoo-ga), which was adopted by the Danish, has no real English equivalent. Not even in Newfanese (unless someone wants to reach out and set me straight.)

The word means finding comfort, pleasure, and warmth in simple, soothing things in a cozy atmosphere. It’s not just a word, it’s a way of life in Scandinavian countries, especially Denmark.

It’s a lifestyle, a defining part of Danish – and Scandinavian – culture.

Why should you care?

Because I think it’s a way of life for many of us here too, we just don’t have a word for it.  Maybe we should.

Hygge is about the cozy contentment and well-being you get when enjoying the simple things in life, especially during the darker, colder months. Its when you give your mind, your body, and your spirit a rest.

It’s very much a northern country thing.

I think most Newfoundlanders pursue hygge, even if we don’t know what to call it. If you go home and put on comfortable clothes you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing in public, that’s hygge. (If you do wear them in public, that’s Walmart). My hygge is a large cup of tea, a roaring fire, and a good book on a cold winter’s night. It’s a job to get there, but when I do, I am content.

The old joke about Newfoundland heaven – a coke, a smoke, and a raisin square – falls into that category.

Again, although there’s no word for it over here, it’s big business. Walk through any mall or shopping district and you will see displays designed to appeal to your craving for coziness, warmth, and relaxation.

Tim Horton’s has built an empire on hygge. Their ads are full of images of people in toques coming in from a dark snowy winter’s night into the bright lights of a “Timmys” and being handed a bowl of steaming hot soup or chili. They are now even selling a line of cozy clothes. Very hygge.

As a clever friend of mine once said, is there anything more magic than being handed a hot coffee through your car window on a cold night?

Many of the FM radio stations promote hygge, in so many words. People phone in requests, and the DJ asks them what they are at. “Kegged off in the shed with a woodstove and a few brews, listening to a few tunes.” Newfoundland hygge.

Comfort food, especially in the winter, is very big to the pursuit of hygge. 

It’s starting to catch on a little in North America. There are books on hygge, a top ten hygge movies, top quotes, and online suggestions on how to make your house more hygge. No need for books here. In Newfoundland, making something hygge is really just common sense.

Denmark is credited with being one of the happiest places on Earth, and they say this is due to the national pursuit of hygge. Don’t take my word for it – there’s a Happiness Research Institute located in – you guessed it – Denmark. This organization is dedicated to measuring and promoting happiness, and they are dead serious (in a friendly, laid-back affable kind of way.)

I would love to have the good folks at this Institute study us. The people of this province are often credited with being happier than most (our provincial motto was once “The Happy Province”), and I believe it is because we pursue happiness, and look to be happy, and know how to be happy, even if we don’t have a word for it.

Just don’t use this new word you’ve learned among friends and loved ones. Picture it: you are relaxing with your spouse, kids and/or friends. The woodstove is blazing, there’s cinnamon cookies on the table. The beer is cold and the dip spicy. Suddenly you jump up and say “HOO-GA!”

You’re liable to have your beer supply cut off then and there.

Ivan Morgan can be reached at ivan.morgan@gmail.com

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