Pandemic heightens importance of 'hygge' moments, says Danish ambassador

Worried that your patio days are over? That the pandemic has condemned you to a long, cold winter cooped up inside? Maybe you just need a warm cup of hygge — the Danish concept of cosiness, comfort and contentment. 

Scandinavian concept embodies cosiness and contentment

Hanne Fugl Eskjær, the Danish ambassador to Canada, embraces the Scandinavian philosophy of hygge as she sits in her Ottawa backyard with a warm blanket and a cup of tea. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Worried that your patio days are over? That the COVID-19 pandemic has condemned you to a long, cold winter cooped up inside?

Maybe you just need a warm cup of hygge – the Scandinavian concept of cosiness, comfort and contentment. 

"In general, hygge is a cozy moment where you relax either on your own [or] often in good company with people you appreciate," said Hanne Fugl Eskjær, the ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark, in an interview Sunday with CBC Radio's In Town and Out. 

"With a nice cup of tea or coffee in your hand, something warm, it's not fancy at all – it's cosy."

Other important ingredients for an ideal hygge (pronounced "hyoo-guh") moment include soft lighting, a cell-phone-free zone and weather that's cool but not intolerable.  

'Back to basics'

Hygge's importance is underscored during tough times like a global pandemic, the ambassador said.  

With restrictions in place on so many activities — at least in COVID-19 hotspots like Ottawa-Gatineau — the virus has forced people to enjoy the simpler moments of life. 

"And I think in these corona days where we couldn't be too social, where we kind of had to stay apart to be responsible and safe, people have really found the hygge moments," she said.

"Back to basics, you could say. Not the fancy restaurants but the nice cosy cafes, outdoors or at home."

A teapot, some candles, and a pastry — all of which are important, says Danish Ambassador Hanne Fugl Eskjær, when embracing the philosophy of hygge. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

In Denmark, the word is commonly used in everyday conversation, she said.

"If you had invited me for dinner, we've been for a walk or we had a nice cup of coffee at a cafe or in one of our places  — I would call you or send you a text saying, 'Thank you for a very hygge moment.'"

She said the cabins in Gatineau Park are a good example of a Canadian spin on hygge, as skiers looking for a break from the outdoors can start a fire to warm up, while passers-by are welcome to come in for a communal experience. 

Hanne Fugl Eskjær: Ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark 11:17

"It's really important to keep those outdoor facilities open," the ambassador said. "Even in a crisis situation with corona, people need to be outdoors. We know that it's more safe to be outdoors than gathering indoors."

Ultimately, the appeal of hygge — whether it's during a pandemic or not — is its simplicity, Eskjær said. 

"Even in a busy day, you could find that 15 minutes of hygge, of cosiness, where you relax and you forget a little bit the hustle and bustle. And you gather the kids around you and have an apple and a cup of tea," she said.

"It can be short and simple."

With files from In Town and Out

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