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By Ashlyn

The Danish word of the day is hygge.

The definition of the word is ???

If you haven’t been to Denmark then it’s likely that you have never encountered the fascinating concept of “hygge.” Pronounced HOO-geh, hygge is a word that defies description for many Danes. We Americans may approximate its meaning as “cozy,” but there is no real authentic English word that encapsulates all of the subtle nuances that hygge implies.

Hygge, unlike coziness, is not just a state of being but a mindset. It is an emotion of sorts. It is coming in from the cold and warming up next to the fire with a drink and a blanket wrapped around you. It’s a rich homemade dinner with your closest friends, with little candles decorating the table and your favorite mix tape playing in the background. It’s snuggling up on the couch watching Netflix with your boyfriend until you fall asleep.

But hygge does not only exist in wintertime. Eating ice cream in summer with your little sister could be hygge. Or building a sandcastle on the beach and then having a picnic. Or going berry-picking. Or baking a big pie and then sharing a slice with friends. The feeling comes over you and you’re hit with it suddenly (or it creeps up over you before you know what’s happening) and when it does, you know you’ve caught the hygge.

Interestingly, though, the Danes are just as ready to forcefully create a sense of hygge as to allow it to happen naturally. Many cafes, restaurants and bars have signs outside advertising a “hyggelig” (HOO-ga-lee) atmosphere. Whole shop sections are dedicated to objects meant to evoke hygge in the home. Danes string lights, light candles, burn incense, cover areas with plush blankets and cushions – anything to increase the hygge-osity of the space. Hygge is something to continually strive for.

Hygge came upon me for the first time in Denmark exactly one week from the day I touched down in Copenhagen. It had been a long, cold afternoon, with plenty of rain outside. I was buried under about six layers of blankets, slowly working my way through a mound of homework with a few other girls from our dorm. Eventually, someone brought up the idea to make a communal dinner. None of us were too invested in our work, so we put off our readings and papers in favor of raiding our cabinets in search of ingredients.

Eventually we had a pot of chicken stew going on the stove, with fresh biscuits baking away in the oven below. Stir, season, chop, mix – each of us seated with her own task to help the assembly of the meal go smoothly. A suggestion here, a sprinkle of salt there. The meal finished, we lit candles and dimmed the kitchen lights, folded our napkins fancily and laid out the “good” bowls and silverware. “To us!” we cheered, raising our glasses full of lemon water or milk. “Skål!” And then we tucked in to the food – maybe a bit under-seasoned, maybe a bit sloppily presented, but undoubtedly the most filling and satisfying dish I’ve eaten during my time abroad thus far.

Perhaps that was due to the stick and a half of butter we used to make the biscuits. Me, I’d like to think it was the hygge.