Enter the Danish concept of “hygge” — pronounced “hoo-ga.” For the Scandinavian folks across the pond, the winter months are something to look forward to — it’s a time to embrace all things comforting and set time aside for good company.
Warm lighting, baked goods, steaming drinks and plush pajamas are hallmarks of the “hygge” life. The concept became popular a few years ago; since then, local libraries have rolled out “cozy” programs of their own, featuring crafts, drinks and candles (flameless ones, of course).
Here are seven ways to bring the hygge home with your family this winter.
1. Become one with the couch
“I have kids, and the most wonderful time is when we’re all together,” says Michelle Williamson, a reference librarian with the Ferndale Area District Library at the time of this article’s publication. “We’re biased here, but we like books, and reading on the couch with your child is a good way to create hygge for free.”
She says putting phones and computers away is an easy way to make sure everyone is present together.
2. Earn your hygge
“The best way to be cozy is by first venturing outside in good gear, since kids are perfectly comfortable outside in proper boots and hats,” Williamson says. “When you’ve been outside and cold and then you come inside – then you get the hot cocoa.”
3. Pets like hygge, too
“Cuddling is another hygge idea,” says Elissa Zimmer, youth services librarian at the Ferndale library. “Especially if you have pets, cuddling is a great opportunity to bond with the pet.” Plus getting everyone together for a group cuddle on the couch while you watch a movie is a great way to stay warm.
4. Engage the senses
One element of hygge is engaging the senses – the more the better. Sense of smell is sometimes overlooked, but Zimmer says incorporating candles in “the smells of the season” like cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla can up the hygge factor. “Listen to the birds outside and learn about bird watching,” adds librarian Erin Helmrich from the Ann Arbor District Library at the time of interview. Bonus points if you craft the bird feeder yourself.
5. It’s the little things
“You could really set the mood with a fireplace or candles, or even just dimming the lights,” says Darlene Hellenberg, assistant director and librarian at Ferndale’s library.
“Popcorn on the stove instead of the microwave and putting on your favorite pj’s (even if it’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon) makes it more special.” And yes, she says, a blanket fort is essential.
6. Set an activity
It can be a craft, board games or even a movie — so long as everyone is engaged together.
“Looking through old photos, telling stories about grandparents and showing pictures can be a great way to embrace that togetherness,” Helmrich says. “My kids love to bake,” Williamson adds. “It’s a little bit of math, it’s very tactile and even toddlers can help.”
7. Get hygge at the library
Mom and dad can get a little hygge help at adult-only workshops, too.
In non-COVID times, the Ann Arbor District Library has offerings like knitting, crocheting, jigsaw puzzles, quiet reading and warm drinks. And the Ferndale Area District Library has themes ranging from confetti luminaries to house plants.
During the pandemic, some libraries are offering virtual options. Check ahead to see what’s in store.
This post was originally published in 2019 and is updated regularly.