Hygge: the Danish secret to surviving winter
'It's not something that can be manufactured or sold. It's a state of being'
Slick roads, sunless skies and soul-crushing snowbanks — Edmonton's winters can make even the hardiest of people despair for spring.
But there may be a remedy for the winter doldrums in another land of snow and sleet — and it's from Denmark.
The Danes have an antidote for their long cold winters. It's called hygge.
Pronounced "hoo-gah," there is no English word which perfectly captures the true meaning of hygge.
"The best translation is coziness but not the physical coziness that you get when you put on a sweater or cuddle up with a blanket," said Natalie Van Deusen, a professor of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Alberta. "It's more of a state mental balance and psychological well-being.
"It's very uniquely Danish. It's an important part of their national and cultural identity."
Despite their dismal winters, with as many as 17 hours of darkness per day, the Danes remain among the happiest people on the planet. Hygge is a big reason why, said Van Deusen.
Though there is no exact recipe for hygge, it's all about the simple pleasures, Van Deusen said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.
'You don't plan it, you don't create it'
Sitting by the fire with a mug of mulled wine in a mountain of blankets or gathering with friends for a steaming cup of tea surrounded by candles are all hygge.
"A big part of winter there is sort of hunkering down," said Van Deusen, who lived in Denmark for a year.
"We embrace the outdoors [in Canadian winters], but there, it's about hunkering down [and] staying inside in close living quarters.
"I found the winter there very hard to deal with so I can very much see why this is something to promote. They're very dreary, rainy and very dark."
- Hot pepper and latex: one Edmonton mailman's cold weather survival guide
- Hot winter reads from Edmonton AM
Van Deusen said there is a growing contingent of seasoned people around the world adopting hygge, and they are using it to turn their homes in winter havens.
It made Oxford Dictionary's word of the year shortlist. There are classes and books dedicated to perfecting the art of hygge.
Van Deusen says Edmonton could learn a lot from the lifestyle.
"It's often associated with sitting in front of the fire, with a cup of tea and a cozy blanket, but it's more than that," she said. "It's not the activities themselves, but the feeling that those activities elicit.
"You don't plan it, you don't create it," she added. "It's not something that can be manufactured or sold. It's a state of being."