A couple of months ago, seemingly out of nowhere, the trend of hygge hit the UK.
Literally, I wandered into the bookshop one day and saw a display of hundreds (well, OK, like 10) different books, promising to teach the reader about the magic of hygge and happiness of 'living Danishly.'
I have no idea where it came from. It was just there one day, fully formed, ready to fix our lives with its cosy, endearing Danish-ness.
The thing is, I actually had several conversations about hygge with a part-Danish friend last year. "Hygge" means a sort of cosy togetherness, and it was, for me, a useful way of thinking about how I needed to adapt my life as winter came in. I thought of myself as "burrowing", being less of a workaholic and planning to spend lots of evenings watching Netflix or reading books under piles of blankets, and making sure I made plenty of plans with friends. Maybe not the real Danish sense of hygge, but a useful new way of looking at things, and one that has changed the way I spend my winters. I do now have piles of blankets, lots of candles, and more fairy lights than any self-respecting human should own. I turn off the main lights early in the evening, turn off the computer screens long before it's time to sleep, and embrace the dark winter nights rather than resisting them.
So I was pretty surprised when I saw so many books dedicated to this concept I'd been musing on last year, and I excitedly started flicking through them. But there's not really much to fill a book when the concept basically comes down to turning your home into a fire hazard, keeping warm, and spending time with friends. The books are full of complicated "Danish" recipes and fulfilling "Danish" crafting projects that are supposed to bring you happiness, plus lots of Instagram worthy pictures of people, pets and candles. It seems pretty ironic that the concept of living simply and cosily has turned into a huge capitalist enterprise full of lots of not-so-simple purchases.
But I can really see the appeal. It's easy to be tempted by pretty books that say "this will make you happy." The idea that it's a Danish concept gives it an air for snuggly legitimacy, because, after all, the Danes are the happiness people in the world, even if the trend sometimes makes it sound like all Danes took a hygge class in school for this happiness and we now all need to catch up. And let's be honest, this has been a terrible year. We could do with being a bit cosy.
So I'll take the concept at the heart of hygge. Being cosy and with friends while the days get colder and the nights get longer sounds perfect to me. But maybe I'll skip all the marketing around it. Save my money to invest in more fairy lights instead.