By Jane Bishop Halteman
December 7, 2015

Getting cozy may not be the first thing that comes to mind as you consider how you want to spend Advent, that time when we are typically waiting and watching, considering exile and darkness, looking toward the arrival of warmth and light.

Last year about this time a friend alerted me to the Danish concept of hygge, the practice of which I attribute to making this dark time of the year a much more manageable season for me personally.  Typically, I dread these long nights, the grim, gray days that sometimes accompany winter in northern Indiana, and the serious cold air that blows over Lake Michigan in December.  

Inadequately translated as “coziness,” hygge, according to one source, has much more to do with “the art of creating intimacy:  a sense of comradeship, conviviality, and contentment all rolled into one” and definitely is “not something you can do in a rush…you have to slow down for it.”

“Gezellig” is the word the Dutch use to explain this kind of positive togetherness, generated by sharing good food, warm companionship and ambiance, perhaps a hot drink, and candlelight.  According to Wikipedia, the word “means cozy, quaint, or nice, but can also connote time spent with loved ones, seeing a friend after a long absence, or general togetherness.” 

Jessica Alexander of the Greater Good Science Center says this about hygge:  “Try to imagine going to a drama-free family gathering. There are no divisive discussions about politics, family issues, or Aunt Jenny’s dysfunctional kids. No snide comments, complaining, or heavy negativity. Everyone helps out, so that not one person gets stuck doing all the work. No one brags, attacks anyone, or competes with another. It is a light-hearted, balanced interaction that is focused on enjoying the moment, the food, and the company. In short, a shelter from the outside world.”

Alexander goes on to write that “feeling connected to others gives meaning and purpose to all of our lives. Social ties can increase longevity, reduce stress, and even boost our immune system. By dedicating specific time to hygge we can create a safe space for families and friends to be together without stress. However, it takes everyone wanting this and working together to achieve it.”

As the season changes and our moods shift to the waiting of Advent, I’m especially enjoying my own living room with hygge created by the warmth and light of our fireplace, Christmas tree, candles here and there, invigorating holiday music, the pleasant fragrances of cooking or baking, and maybe a mug of something hot.  

Visiting with family and friends, sharing a meal, taking in seasonal experiences, cooking or baking together…all of these times of togetherness help build the camaraderie associated with hygge.

How will your relationships, your observances of Advent and Christmas be warmed and lit by hygge this year?  As we prepare in Advent to celebrate the greatest gift, how will you create a warm glow for yourself that will seep into the lives of others around you?

For starters, you might want to watch Christine Sine's 2015 Advent video entitled Lean towards the Light.  Or listen to this YouTube video of Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium.