I like warm socks, coffee, and a cozy fire. But real, sustainable self-care involves something unexpected.
I, like so many, am pretty good at self-care: I love bubble baths, magazines, drinking coffee, and reading good books. But even my skills in this area could not prepare me for the month I just endured. The city I live in, Portland, Oregon, just came through the most miserable four weeks that any of us can remember. Being surrounded by sleet, freezing rain, ice, and snow for the past month has made me well aware of how the winter season intensifies my desire to be comfortable.
Is it any wonder, then, that people from Nordic traditions (with their long, long winters) have identified and capitalized on the same need for comfort? The popular Danish word hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) roughly translates as “cozy” and “seeking comfort.” Chances are, you have seen this word hashtagged on an Instagram post, often accompanied by a picture of coffee, socks, a warm fire, knitting needles, and a book or two.
Hygge has taken the popular imagination by storm, and now I find myself inundated with messages for how to create a more comfortable life for myself. In 2017—following a year that exposed the deep racial and class divisions in America—this philosophy of comfort has given me pause. How should I, as a Christian in this particular moment in history, view a seemingly innocuous longing for coziness?
America is markedly different from the Nordic cultures in which hygge has been cultivated. Traditionally, hygge is understood as “comfort in moderation”—for example, having one cookie to ensure others get one, as well. But we Americans don’t tend to do moderation very well. TIME magazine recently identified how hygge is being increasingly marketed for consumption. This means …