The UK has embraced hygge, and for a Scandi there are fewer times of year that is more about hygge than Christmas. As the nights draw in and the days become shorter – and they do get ridiculously short up in the icy North – embracing light and warmth isn’t trendy. It’s a way of life.
As a Norwegian with over 16 years in the UK under my belt, I’ve unwittingly tried to create hygge around me for years. I’ve embedded the lifestyle in my home and I’m bringing up my kids in a cocoon of woolly blankets and candle light. But these things are just manifestations of what I believe hygge is all about: an atmosphere of contentment.
I really think hygge is a unique Scandi concept because it’s about creating pockets of ‘the good stuff’ with scarce resources surrounded by harsh conditions and darkness. Norway is historically a resource-poor and sombre country, but jul – as we call Christmas in Norway – has been a festive period since the time of the Vikings.
Jól was the midwinter sacrifice, where mead and livestock was offered to the Norse gods. The celebrations lasted for three days, and the tables were filled with beer and meat from the sacrificial animals for all to share. As Norway became a Christian country, a number of pagan traditions got Christian veils, but jul as a time of abundance remained, with plentiful food as a stark contrast to the daily gruel and salt fish.
Christmas in an age of abundance
This is of course a far cry from our mainstream Western society today. Though Christmas is still a time for food, unlike ‘the olden days’ indulgence isn’t reserved for Christmas. In our part of the world, we’re wading through a sea of meat, cakes, and butter on a daily basis. Sure, Christmas food is great, but I’m just not convinced the taste of Christmas turkey is that unique if you eat chicken or turkey three times a day. So I wonder, with this abundance around us, are we still able to appreciate the festive time and the taste of our food. Bringing it back to hygge, can we feel content without appreciation of what we have? And, would it be easier to achieve hygge at Christmas if our day-to-day lives were a little bit more balanced?
Have a Livewell Christmas
Unsurprisingly, as a member of WWF-UK’s food team and a long-standing advocate of Livewell I believe we need to rethink our food consumption. My point here is that reconsidering our food system isn’t just good for the environment. And, it’s not just about health. It’s about appreciation – for the love of food. Embracing balance over time is what Livewell is all about, and we can still do that and love our food. We can even have a Livewell Christmas! Follow our guideline to see how you can enjoy a delicious variety of food – including traditional favourites such as turkey, chocolate, cheese and cashew nuts – and still keep to our Livewell guidelines.
So, enjoy your food, savour every bite. Then take a deep breath. That’s where hygge is.