I first heard of the Danish word “hygge” last winter, but this winter it’s all over the place in the UK and helping to sell lots of Christmas decorations and gifts. Candles, thick brightly-coloured socks, books, pastries, coffee, hot chocolate….The closest translation is “Gemuetlichkeit” in German. We don’t have an equivalent in English but the nearest seems to be “cosiness”. It’s about enjoying simple things in a relaxed, contented social atmosphere. A bike ride in nature is hygge but a bus ride is not. My description of the new English word “Twixtmas” in my blogpost of December 30th is hygge but shopping is not. Knitting with thick wool feels like it should be hygge, and reading a book, but not reading a kindle. By the way, when you pronounce it the “y” sounds like the “u” in French “une”.
I’ve never been to Denmark but I’ve visited Norway, Finland, Germany and Switzerland in winter and noticed how they make the best of the winter weather, with floodlit cross-country ski trails through the woods, candlelit coffee and cake in the afternoons, and Christmas markets. That’s especially important in the Scandinavian countries where daylight hours are short in winter. I’ve read that “kos” in Norwegian and “mys” in Swedish have similar meanings to hygge.
There are a few Nordic bakeries in London, eg. The Nordic Bakery on 55 Neal St Covent Garden, or Bagriet (Swedish for bakery) at 24 Rose St Covent Garden. The Nordic Bakery invites us to visit their café, slow down our pace of life and enjoy “peaceful moments with friends or alone” on their website www.nordicbakery.com. The Bagriet promises us “the best tasting cinnamon buns in London” on their website www.bagriet.co.uk. Their buns and cakes are freshly baked daily. I think we’ll stop off at one of these one day in the Christmas holidays, but we’ll make the buns at home for now as we don’t live anywhere near.
Cinnamon buns are baked throughout Scandinavia and they are slightly different in each country. The Swedish ones are called “Kanelbullar” and there are plenty of recipes on the internet. This is the one we used: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/PmDhh5SLl6s53GmQS1xl10/cinnamon-buns It’s the buttery filling which contains the cinnamon, whereas the dough contains ground cardamom. We pounded some cardamom pods with a pestle and mortar to separate out the pods and grind the seeds. The smell was amazing – I love cardamom.
Here we’re spreading the cinnamon filling onto the rolled out dough:
…and now the sliced up roll is ready to bake, in a Christmas tree shape:
The smell of butter and cinnamon coming from the oven cheered up a dark Sunday afternoon. Apparently the buns are best eaten while still warm, so we did not delay. Here they are in the few minutes between emerging from the oven and being eaten:
We made some hot chocolate (milk heated up with chunks of dark chocolate, whisked as it melts) and settled down for some “hygge”. We had a film ready, a French one we both like called “Une nuit de chat”, or “A cat in Paris”.
My daughter was influenced by an advert she’d seen for hygge, which showed a pair of feet clothed in thick colourful socks propped up in front of a log fire, and she took this photo:
Husband: “Why are you wearing your hiking socks?”
Daughter: “We’re doing hygge”.
H (eying duvet D has draped over herself): “Well wouldn’t you be more hygge if you just went to bed?”
The “Kanelbullar” were yummy. I know you’re not supposed to eat them with whipped cream but there was some sitting in the ‘fridge…..
Does anyone know any names for “hygge” in another language?