So last year on New Year’s eve, I wrote a post about why 2015 was a pretty crap year for a lot of the world, myself included. But I couldn’t have predicted that 2016 could be a whole lot worse. I mean Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen? Then there was that thing in Novemeber where America managed for a second time to elect a man who lost the popular vote. But you know what saved 2016? Hygge.
It started with The Year of Living Danishly which triggered an avalanche of books on the benefits of simple, cosy living - with an emphasis on cosy. Hygge is most commonly depicted as feet covered in thick wool socks propped up in front of a wood burning stove, or mugs of hot chocolate against the backdrop of an unadorned plaster wall. It’s blankets in a basket. Felt slippers by the door. It’s like sitting in an IKEA display pretending candles are providing all the light you need and there aren’t five thousand other shoppers milling about. In fact, I’m a bit suspicious that IKEA might have had a hand in promoting this trend. It wasn’t enough that every apartment I’ve visited since 2008 has a Billy Bookcase. Soon we’ll all be eating pickled herring on rye bread from the same ivory colored IKEA plates.
But if Hygge promotes decluttering one’s surroundings, this could certainly be the first step in decluttering one’s mind. After so much death, shock and sorrow in 2016, I’d love to wipe my mind clean of the news, the angst and keeping track of which new billionaire Donald Trump has appointed to his cabinet. (Just watch; I bet he’ll try to get a New York Knicks referee to sit on the Supreme Court.)
Then Z and I took a trip to Copenhagen, the capital of Hygge. Sure, the buses and streets were clean, everyone was on bicycles and there were Danish modern furniture stores on every block. But Hygge didn’t really hit me until we spent a day at Tivoli Gardens, one of Europe’s oldest amusement parks. When we walked into a coffee shop, staffed by pierced and bearded hipsters, there were lit candles everywhere. Later that night I nearly singed myself waiting for food at a crepe stand, because the candle burning on the stainless steel countertop wasn’t an LED; it was real. But the best Hygge delight was huddling next to the open vats of red hot coals warming our hands with other park visitors. I looked around for stumbling 20-something English men about to go crashing into the inferno. But it didn’t happen. Maybe Hygge is an antidote to getting shitfaced.
As we brace ourselves for what’s to come in 2017, I’m not going to say things couldn’t possibly get worse. They could get very bad. But I look forward to seeing how many ways people will stand up to the other populist trend; the xenophobic, fear mongering rhetoric which is also sweeping our lands. And though I don’t like to reduce things to black and white, it’s feeling like dark vs light to me. It’s the cold hand of tyranny against the warm embrace of inclusion. It’s walls vs windows. And if ever there was a time we needed to embrace the glowing warmth of Hygge, it’s now. Happy New Year!