A hyggelig Thanksgiving
Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is a Danish word that translates to 'cozy'. The Danes use hygge to describe the warm, fuzzy, homely ambiance they choose to create during the depressing, dark winter months.
So how does one create a hyggelig (hygge-like) environment? The Danes do this by lighting candles all through their city homes or lighting a fire if they’re in the countryside. They leave blankets and comfortable puffs around their living spaces where families and friends can snuggle together over hot cocoa. They cook hearty and delicious meals together and savor these meals for hours. They unplug from all technology: phones, tablets and televisions. They snuggle around in their knits and blankets as they play some board games together. They enjoy each other's company over some home-made mulled wine.
As you’ve probably guessed, creating a hyggelig environment is pretty inexpensive. In fact, the more money spent, the less hyggelig the experience becomes. Hygge, often described as "the art of creating intimacy" or "cozy togetherness", has more to do with creating the perfect ambiance for bonding, relaxing and savoring the little things. My personal definition: communal self-care. It’s important to take a break from the grind when we need to and reset.
If I could describe my Thanksgiving break in one word, I would say it was hyggelig. My brother, Kahira and cousin, Shiko, both students in Boston, came down to spend the break with me in New York. Here are a few of the hyggelig things that we did:
Aside from the elaborate turkey dinner that some friends invited us to that Thanksgiving Thursday, we made sure to cook homely foods like roasted sweet potatoes, sweet and sour pork, buttered toast and even had some Five Guys burgers.
2. Central Park walk
What's more hyggelig than wrapping yourselves in some warm scarves and coats, stepping out into the fall sun, and taking time to walk, chat and enjoy the orange leaves, fallen on Central Park’s green lawns? Then imagine, holding a peppermint mocha from Starbucks and cracking some jokes with your family.
Thanksgiving dinner was nothing short of hyggelig. There we were, a party of 25, everyone in cozy sweaters, cellphones tucked away, wine flowing, food in abundance and three long dining tables. Between every course, we had strict instructions from the hostess to get up and sit next to someone we didn't know. The result? I reconnected with some old friends, met some new people and learned lots about lots .
4. Catching up on Shows and Movies
Yes, even though this involved technology, the whole aspect of hygge is fostering cozy togetherness. Shiko and I binge watched Gossip Girl together and also saw the new Justice League movie. Good times.
5. Pyjamas all day
Am I the only one who relishes the chance to hang out in my pajamas all day without getting the side-eye from 'responsible’ humans? Well, you certainly get that free pass during Thanksgiving and your girl abused her privileges! I wasn’t even phased by Kahira’s side-eyes.
A big part of hygge is indulging in treats that make you feel comforted; the kind of comfort that reminds you of your childhood. Even though I don’t have the biggest sweet tooth, there were definitely tons of treats on Thanksgiving. I counted 6 pies, including Pumpkin, Apple and Pecan, some brownies, ice cream and even whipped cream. Too bad I ate too much turkey to properly indulge, but I guess my waistline is happy?
7. No work
There's nothing that kills a hyggelig vibe as much as getting a call to urgently go into the office. Thankfully, I work at one of those companies that actually respects holidays. We had Wednesday afternoon through Monday off and I didn't receive a single email! Corporate America is trying.
8. Christmas lights
We didn't get to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade but we did get to see an elaborate Christmas lights display at Sak's Fifth Avenue. It was breathtaking.
9. Scented Candles
Candles add so much ambiance and are underrated in my opinion. During the week when I'm heading to work, I rarely get to light a candle and just relax in my bedroom as I read a book. This Thanksgiving, I made a point to light a candle daily and soak in its vanilla aroma as I took my time getting dressed. Matter of fact, I need more candles in my home to create a more hyggelig ambiance.
When you live away from home, you learn to savor any family contact that you get. Friends are great and I have formed some incredible friendships in New York City, but nothing gives you that cozy, homely, hyggelig feeling as much as being around family.
If you want to learn more about hygge, The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking is a great read. I got mine as a birthday present from my cultured best friend Nunu. There are a videos on Youtube that you can wach on hygge or Danish happiness in general. Living Danishly: inspiring ideas from the world's happiest country, is particularly informative.