April may be the cruellest month, but in Scotland, January comes a close second.
From the sadness of a house denuded of Christmas sparkle…
…followed closely by the most depressing day of the year…
…boosted by the rapid succession of Storms Adrian, Bathsheba, Crispin and Dorothea (is it just me or are they getting more frequent and intense since the Met Office started to give them names?)…
…we get a brief respite from sorrow for Burns Night only to have happiness snatched away from us when the Tax Man Cometh at the end of the month. Misery, thy name is January.
But not for us, not this year. Because this is the year we discovered Hygge.
Hygge (pronounced hue-gah – which apparently is a bit like the noise you make when clearing your throat) is a Danish thing which roughly translates to ‘cosiness’ or ‘the art of creating intimacy’. Simple things made special.
If you haven’t heard of hygge yet (where have you been??), think of the zen of making and enjoying the perfect cup of coffee, warm open fires, blankets and cosy socks and hand knitted jumpers (Sarah Lund-style is optional).
Think candles. Everywhere – even if they are now bad for our health.
More than anything, think family and friends. Whatever else hygge is, it’s very, very social.
So we hunkered down to survive winter by getting hygge. Board games? Check. Coffee and Swedish Fika? Check. Trip to IKEA for candles (overdraft pre-arranged)? Check. Enough knitwear to clothe a Tartan Army? A mini-library of unread books? A stash of craft materials? Check, check, check.
And it’s been lovely, honest it has.
Except for the vagaries of climate change that brought us Spring in January and hawthorn in leaf and wet, wet, wet but warm, warm, warm days too. A soggy hygge at 120C just doesn’t seem quite so essential and authentic as it would in the bleak midwinter.
Will we do it next year? You bet – though we may need a trip to IKEA to top up on candles.
But… while it’s cosy and snug to settle down to hygge with close friends and family, I do wonder if its settled insularity might stop people reaching out to those who really need to feel safe and warm during the Winter of 2016. (Is the hygge mindset entirely unrelated to today’s decision by the Danish parliament to confiscate asylum seekers’ valuables to pay for their upkeep?).
So my overwhelming feeling from our hygge experience so far is that what the world needs now is to get out more and crack open that cup o’ kindness!
Where’s my quaich?