Every year in our office, we celebrate Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah), the Danish concept of being with our loved ones, being warm, being cozy. It is a practice that extends all year long, but is especially celebrated during the colder months of the year. Our office would have a lunchtime party, a potluck where everyone would bring soup, bread, chili, muffins. We had hot chocolate and hot cider, warm quinoa, homemade cookies. We always had such an array of foods, various dishes that were considered “comfort foods” and meals that people would make whenever they wanted to warm up. Meals that you wanted to eat by a fireplace as your dog snored by your feet and your cat purred in your lap.
But this year, a year that has been tragically affected by the COVID19 pandemic, what does Hygge even mean in a practical sense? Many people in this country and around the world are telecommuting, practicing social distancing, or in quarantine. Most of us are not around our coworkers. Some of us are separated from our loved ones, sometimes even from our immediate family members. Is the concept of Hygge lost this year?
As a single woman who lives with her dog, I am used to spending large amounts of time alone. Besides an occasional roommate, I have lived alone since I was 18 years old, 20 years ago. This has been my adult life, and for the most part, I like it.
And then came along 2020. It has been almost 10 months since I have been within arms’ reach of another human being, if I don’t count my dentist (and I don’t). I have always considered myself somewhat of an introvert, being shy as a kid and only recently coming out of my shell. I thought socially isolating for a couple weeks, a month tops, was going to be easy. And it was. But then we discovered that this was not a sprint but a marathon. Doing this for 10 months with more to go has been a bit challenging, even for those of us who identify as introverts.
And what about the holidays? A season we usually mark with time together, shared meals, visiting extended family. What is it going to be like this year? I have spent the last 38 Christmases with my grandparents and immediate family. But that will not be happening this year. I will be home with Vinnie, my 11-year-old yellow lab. I will get him some gifts, we will sit together on my couch, we may watch Home Alone or Love Actually, and that will be it.
The entire season will be dramatically different from any other holiday season we have experienced, and this will be the case for millions (even billions?) of people around the world. It’s just a different experience this year.
However, even though it is different, maybe we don’t have to lose the essence, the spirit, of Hygge. Even though we may be separated from our loved ones this year, maybe we can remember that Hygge comes from a place of love and affection, of not just the warmth of hugging others, but the warmth of loving others. Maybe we can show generous love to those we are consciously, responsibly, distancing from this year. Maybe our “togetherness,” our “coziness,” can be exhibited in a more abstract manner until we can once again gather safely in the same home, the same living room, around the same dinner table. Maybe instead of physical closeness and embracing each other, we can embrace the concept of sacrifice and of maturity, for the safety and health of our family and other loved ones. After all, what could be more loving than protecting our family, our friends? What shows that special feeling of warmth more than saying, “Yes, I miss you. But I love you too much to risk it.” Our love hasn’t diminished; it is just being asked to wait, just wait a little while longer until it’s safe.
This year, as it starts to snow and I have only my dog to turn to, I will be thinking of all the family, friends, and coworkers I miss. I will be looking forward to the time when I can gather with them again, have potlucks, enjoy their company without having an imaginary yardstick between us. But for now, I am keeping warm and cozy with the respect and love I feel for them, as we keep a safe distance this holiday season.
What is ‘Hygge’? (2019, April 25). VisitDenmark. https://www.visitdenmark.com/denmark/highlights/hygge/what-hygge