I’ve recently become a little obsessed with hygge (pronounced HOO-gah). In case you haven’t heard about hygge, loosely translated it’s the Danish concept of finding well-being and satisfaction through coziness and simple things. A more complete definition is that, “it’s a holistic approach to deliberately creating intimacy, connection, and warmth with ourselves and those around us,” according to “The Cozy Life” by Pia Edberg.
I initially began reading about hygge because I really hate winter and thought it might be the spin I needed to help me enjoy the colder months a little more. I loved the image of snuggling under blankets and hunkering down in a homey setting with a giant mug of tea and a roaring fireplace. Still, I figured hygge was just another fad that would disappear in a short time.
I discovered that in actuality, hygge is not really a trend; it’s something that has been around for centuries. Perhaps it has come to the fore recently because in our fast-paced, technology-fixated society, people seem to need it. The more I learned about hygge, the more I realized what a terrific concept it is and one in which everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, religion, etc., can partake.
But while I was at the butcher the other day, buying food for our Shabbat dinner, it hit me that my family already enjoys some of the best aspects of hygge every Friday night. I thought about the checklist for hygge and realized Shabbat hits all the big ones. Candles? Check. Unplugging from devices? Check. Wine? Check. Family? Food? Check and check. Apparently, I was already really good at hygge without realizing it. For once I was ahead of something that was popular!
I know I am not alone when I say that life during the week can get pretty crazy and Shabbat is one of the few times my family can sit down to dinner together. We reconnect with each other and chat without distractions. Our older sons, who aren’t generally home, call before dinner to wish us a good Sabbath and we catch up with them too, sometimes even including them as we do the prayers (we don’t use our phones after that point). I admit that we are not shomer Shabbos—that is, we don’t refrain from prohibited activities such as driving and using electricity for the entire length of Shabbat—but for a short time, at least, I feel that we are harkening back to a simpler time, which is part of the point of hygge.
Of course, hygge does not have to be limited to Shabbat; simple pleasures and enjoying the company of good friends and family is a concept which is appreciated and welcome any time, in any season. But during weeks when slowing down and focusing on the basics just doesn’t seem possible, it’s good to know there is a built in respite from life’s frenetic pace to look forward to. It does seem ironic that the obsession du jour is embodied by a ritual observance instituted in the Ten Commandments. I guess it’s another example of the adage, “What’s old is new again.”
I am happy that my newfound interest can help me appreciate and enhance our Shabbat observance even more and I love that, without even knowing it, my family has been experiencing and enjoying hygge all along.