As the cold, rainy days of winter become more routine, and the sunshine begins to hide in some other corner of the world that is not Copenhagen, finding ways to stay warm (and jovial) can be a challenge. Having lived through (I actually prefer the term “survived”) not one but TWO Maine winters, I felt plenty prepared for the cold and the darkness that usually accompanies the end of fall. To my dismay, I soon realized that once begins to end in Copenhagen, it is ALWAYS dark and cold. Granted, Maine isn’t exactly a beacon of sunlight during winter time, but at least I see the sun 3 days of the week. Rain and fog is a daily recipe for darkness in Copenhagen, excluding the roughly 6 hours (8 am – 2:30 pm) of sunlight we get in Denmark on the sunny days.
The one solution any proper Dane would recommend to staying warm, cozy, and most importantly happy during the 4 months of darkness: hygge. There is no direct translation of hygge to English, but a close estimate would be something like “coziness.” Hygge means different things to different Danes. To some, it’s putting on the wool socks and climbing into bed with a warm blanket and a hot cup of cider or cocoa. To others, it’s a shared experience with close friends, family, and/or loved ones–usually involving some sort of warm, delicious meal. But if there’s one common element to all the coziness talk, it’s the candles.
Danes love their candles. No cafe table or dinner table is complete without one. To most Danes, the correct way of inviting someone else to a meal or treating someone to coffee is providing them with hygge. Every experience should be a shared pleasant experience. And for many who understand how dreary the days in Denmark can be, creating a warm, cozy, pleasant, and happy environment with the simple gesture of lighting a candle is rooted in the Danish way of life. Whether you’re alone or in the company of others, there is nothing more essential in life than gettin’ hygge.