It’s become popular in the English-speaking world to reference the Danish word “Hygge,” a somewhat untranslatable word as far as we English speakers go – a word that does not have a direct single word translation in our language. A mystery, perhaps, why we never thought to have our own word for such an activity, a desire to latch on to a Danish ideal that just seems to perfectly make sense to one’s pursuit of happiness.
Hygge or Hyggeligt: A moment that is especially cozy, charming, pleasant, or special. Appreciating the present, acknowledgement of the moment. “The Art of creating intimacy.”
Hygge is a way of surviving the cold, boring, winter months. I like to think it came about as a sanity-saver. Noticing the little things; appreciating a warm bed or the beauty of a roaring fire. Savoring your coffee in the early morning before the kids wake up, enjoying time talking with your family over dinner or playing in the snow. Contemplating the sunset or taking time to watch the leaves fall from the trees in Autumn. Contentedness that is good for the spirit.
Now, I love the Danes, I do… But they are not unique in the concept of hygge. I understand, first of all that the Norwegians share the same word “hygge,” so we can’t give ALL the credit to the Danes… at least not without me knowing the exact previous linguistic histories (who got what from whom whenever whoever owned who…. You know what I mean.) I’ve read that the Danish derived from the Norwegian word in the 1800s, but I haven’t had much time to research that – apologies. I also understand that there are similar Dutch and German words gezelligheid and geműtlichkeit, respectively. I do not know enough about these words; however, to explain the intricacies of their meanings.
But their Scandinavian sister, Sweden, also has a word with a similar concept: Mysa. Mysa is not quite the same, but is related to coziness as well, it can also be thought of as enjoying oneself or making oneself comfortable. There is a “tradition” called Fredagsmys, which is Friday’s “mys” – or relaxing on a Friday, spending time with friends or family. Cuddling, watching movies – whatever you enjoy doing to decompress at the end of the week. That along with Lördagsgodis (Saturday’s candy – scoops of candy from the grocer’s in paper bags) prove that the Swedes sure know how to weekend! Haha.
Mysa or Mysig: Getting comfortable and enjoying oneself, especially at home. Being content and cozy.
While hygge relates to any activity or part of your day, mysa relates more to the home. So, okay – they aren’t exactly the same concept – even though Google translate will tell you Danish hygge = Swedish mys.
For further clarification to mysa is a verb, whereas hygge is more of a noun. Hyggelig and mysig means the state of hygge/mysa; and to put action to hygge (make it a verb) you’d say “hygge sig.”
Another unstranslateable Swedish word I love is “Lagom.” It is not directly related to either of the words in this discussion, but I do think it goes hand in hand with the overall Swedish contentment model.
Lagom: Not too little, not too much. Just right.
I no longer live through the dark winters of Scandinavia, but as many of you know I moved from sunny Australia to Northeast Wisconsin mid-winter last year. That, along with me being in my mid-thirties, I think it’s time for me to put a renewed focus on being hyggelig and mysig.
This Autumn and Winter I’m going to spend time in my warm bed on cold mornings, drink my tea out of my favorite mugs with lots of cream, I’m going to play in the snow with my kids this year – then snuggle my husband in front of the fireplace and drink hot chocolate. I’m going to take time to write and catch up with friends. I’m going to soak in the tub and read a good book or ten. I’m going to appreciate every morning that I wake up, even if a child of mine knocks on my bedroom door a tad earlier than they should.
I used to love sitting in my parent’s living room in Sweden during winter when we had seven candles in each window (electric so they were on 24/7) and real candles flickering through my father’s Orefors crystal.
Hot chocolate with a King Leo peppermint stick was a staple every winter, watching Karl Bertil Jonsson’s Christmas Eve was something I watched every season from age 3 to my early 20s. I have it still, somewhere (my parents converted the old copied-from-TV-VHS to a DVD at some point), as well as the book. This year I will sit with my kids and watch, read, and explain it to them. I will find some King Leos, I will make cardamom cookies, cardamom braid bread, and Lussekatter again this year (I usually do – but I skipped the last two years…) I will convince my children to love julmust, haha.
For now; however, it is Friday. The children are in school for a few more hours and the husband is at work. I’m going to make myself some honey lavender tea, grab a couple Belgian waffle biscuits, and get cozy in my bed to savor them.
What makes you hygge sig/mysa?