A Cozy Winter with knitscene: The Meaning of Hygge
Spending time in Scandinavia during the winter months can be trying for those of us who relish sunshine. I lived in Sweden when I was in college and did not fully understand what I was getting myself into until I was there. The brief daylight hours were overshadowed by a deep darkness I’d never before experienced and a cold that always found the defects in my armor of winter wear. It was dark when I went to school and dark when I rode the train home, and the sun never seemed to linger, even during daylight hours.
Fortunately, I hit the jackpot with my host family in Sweden: a Swedish dad (Anders), Danish mom (Hanne), and two awesome children (Linnea and Tobias), all of whom spoke English, played badminton, and enjoyed baked goods (and Hanne and Linnea were knitters!). Their home was a bastion of safety and comfort described by that awesome Danish word hygge (pronounced hue-guh). Defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being,” hygge is the perfect word for the feeling I got walking through their front door and closing out the darkness.
The colors inside were inviting, the lighting soft and warm; everything had a use and a place. It was the kind of space that made you want to settle in and stay a while, where you felt welcome, at ease, and comfortable. Hanne made the covers on the couch pillows (there were sewn covers when I lived there and knitted covers the last time I visited) as well as the pot holders and dish towels in the kitchen. She had a basketful of colorful knitted wrist warmers that added pops of color and warmth to all winter outfits. (Have you ever worn wrist warmers? The coziness they create is uncanny!) Both she and Linnea knitted their own sweaters and had made countless beautiful and creative knitted and crocheted items over the years.
Making things with your hands for people you love is a huge part of what hygge is for me. Whether you’re putting logs on a fire, baking, or yarn crafting, you’re creating a little bit of happiness for someone. I live far away from both my host family and my tremendously awesome actual family, but the things they’ve made for me, especially the knitwear, help me feel comfortable and safe no matter what. The hats, scarves, wrist warmers, mittens, shawls, bags, pot holders, and more travel with me always, little talismans and happy thoughts, creating feelings of well- being no matter where I am.
In this same vein, the Scandinavian approach to life encourages hygge. I recognize that I tend to view Sweden through a romantic lens, but I honestly think Swedes (and Danes and Norwegians) are particularly attuned to appreciating and elevating the little things in life. They recognize the importance of time well spent, in comfort, with good people. They know that these times do not need to be grand or expensive excursions but can be quiet evenings at home, going sledding and then having hot chocolate or making things with your hands. The feeling of being content, safe, and cozy—that’s what hygge is, and it’s something I’ve been chasing for years. I always know where to start, though: knitting on the needles, the company of good people, and the door closed to the darkness.
Louisa Demmitt drinks too much coffee and reads too many books in Fort Collins, Colorado. This piece by Louisa can be found in knitscene Winter 2017. [Featured Image: Hero Images/Getty Images]