The Hygge Cure

How I imported the Danish love of hygge – doubling down inside with hot drinks, slow­ cooked food, knitted blankets and other cozy touches – into my life this winter.

March 20, 2017 | | Headwaters Nest

You know if something makes it to CityLine, then it’s “on point,” or “trendy,” as we used to say. I was lying on the couch with the flu, listening to the radio and drifting in and out of consciousness, when “hygge” came up as the topic of the next segment. I talked myself into a fresh cup of tea and sat up (well, more like a 45-degree incline, but the closest I had been to sitting in days).

Hygge is the now very cool idea, or movement, of cozying down, at home, with family and friends – enjoying hot drinks, slow-cooked food, board games, books and the like. The accoutrements are knitted blankets, soft lighting and candles, sturdy mugs and warm socks. Sigh. Sounds dreamy about now, right?

As the world seems to move faster in manic and maniacal directions we can’t comprehend, the idea of hygge is ever more appealing. There is comfort in family and friends and being close to home. There is less glamour to be sure, but we are in our own nests, sharing time together, and able to tuck our chicks in safely for the night.

Hygge (pronounced “hoo-guh”) is a Danish word, adapted from Norwegian, with a unique definition that goes beyond just getting cosy. It’s similar to the Dutch word “gezelligheid” (pronounced “khe-zell-ikh-ite”). I’ve been phonetically butchering both words for a year, especially gezelligheid, because my husband is Dutch and I like to try to impress him.

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  • When my friends asked me this year if I had any resolutions, I proclaimed I would be embracing hygge and gezelligheid. We would make room for together-time, and take it slow. We would indulge in movies at home (so much easier with Netflix and everything on demand), and brunches that last for hours. You know that feeling – when the power goes out, and you find blankets, light candles and turn off your devices to save the batteries. Then the power returns with a series of clicks and whirrs and your eyes are assaulted, and you want to go back to the quiet and softness. That’s when I find myself turning off the lights, trying to preserve that wrinkle in time, and that is what I am trying to capture by embracing hygge.

    Hygge is the now very cool idea, or movement, of cozying down, at home, with family and friends. Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong.

    Hygge is the now very cool idea, or movement, of cozying down, at home, with family and friends. Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong.

    Savouring the Simple Things

    At Christmas we bought the board games Clue and Scrabble for our son Adrian. He loved both and we played over and over. He legitimately beat most of us at Scrabble.

    He also started learning the Rubik’s Cube. He can now solve it consistently in under a minute – and has mastered five different cubes. I haven’t ever solved the cube, not once, since its release in 1974. But the Internet has a million and one videos if you want to learn how to do pretty much anything, so that too is part of our version of hygge.

    It makes sense that warm soups and breads and cheeses are part of the movement. Nibbling and noshing throughout the afternoon, as the kids come in to steal blankets for their forts, is an entirely pleasing way to pass the time.

    Our friend Jon recently gave us a handcrafted cheese board. He made it from spalted wood he found up the road from his house, near my Aunt Diane’s old log house in Hockley Valley where we all used to hang out and party. Jon said he knew it was for me when he picked it up.

    Similarly, my friends Jenny, Robert and their daughter Kylie brought along a handmade platter to a recent get-together. I admired the gorgeous veins in the wood and the live edge. “So, pretty!” I exclaimed. Jenny grabbed my arm and said, “As you were leaving your last house, remember I asked for a log from the cut trees in the backyard?” I did. “I made the platter from that wood, so your house would always be with you.” Ah, tears sprang to my eyes as I gave her a good, hard hug.

    This week I’m helping out with Dufferin’s inaugural knitting and crocheting club. An armchair craft that is seeing a resurgence – more hygge at work? I love supporting the spread of knowledge about something that can be solitary and meaningful but also practical. And while I can’t pull together a line of stitches, I think the activity supports my wish for the gentleness that feels important in life right now.

    What’s next with the changing season and spring on its way? I think I am doing well with embracing hygge. I still like a good party and to run fast in the wind. I’m planning a new garden for the backyard. And when the trails finally melt, I can’t wait to get out for some long walks in the valley, or up at my parents’ place in the hills of Mulmur.

    Even as the bursting green fills us with new energy, I still want to quell the squelch of the media, eat home-cooked meals, read a good book, and take time to savour the simple, precious things in life.


    More Info

    Mother and daughter escape for horse lovers

    Teen Ranch hosts a special escape on May 12 just in time for Mother’s Day. Beginning Friday night, enjoy a weekend away together in beautiful accommodations with full linens, delicious meals, treats and surprises, a riding lesson and scenic trail rides through the hills. A wonderful way for mothers and daughters to bond. The cost for two nights is $325 per person. See details at

    Dad and son hockey retreat

    Not to be outdone, the boys are invited to a getaway as well! Set aside the weekend of June 16 for a boy and his dad to build memorable times together. Share accommodation, skill development sessions, outstanding meals, campfires, Kids vs. Dad scrimmage, trail rides and more. The cost for two nights is $425 per person. Details at

    Practice makes perfect

    … but nagging kids to put in time on their instrument can kill a budding music career. A workshop called Calming the Practice Monster might just be the answer. The hour-and-a-half session hosted by the Orangeville & District Music Festival on April 30 promises to make practice a fun and creative time for kids, parents and teachers alike. Register at

    Terry Fox: running to the heart of Canada

    An afternoon at the museum might be just what you need while the crock pot simmers. Both Dufferin County Museum & Archives in Mulmur and Peel Art Gallery Museum & Archives in Brampton are marking the 35th anniversary of Terry Fox’s heroic Marathon of Hope by hosting a travelling exhibition about Terry’s run to beat cancer, and his remarkable and continuing legacy. Running to the Heart of Canada celebrates Terry’s epic 143-day, 5,373-kilometre journey from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Thunder Bay, Ontario. The show runs until May 27 at DCMA and June 4 at PAMA. Regular museum admission applies. See or

    Hats On Dufferin

    Hats On Dufferin is a community activation campaign that aims to raise awareness about poverty-related issues in Dufferin County. You can get involved by following the campaign online, or by donating knitted hats or yarn at Craft Happy on Broadway in Orangeville. With an ambitious goal of donating 4,350 hats(150 to every school in Dufferin County in recognition of Canada’s 150th anniversary, plus community partner locations), it’s time to get making! See

    Summer camp time!

    It’s time to plan for summer camp! And In The Hills is here for you and the kids in your lives. There’s an enormous variety of camps to choose from, offering an exciting array of fun and educational experiences. Check out our kids’ summer camps listings.

    For the most comprehensive listings of community events in and around the Headwaters region check out What’s On.

    About the Author More by Bethany Lee

    Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.



    1. Thank you for your comment, “Jennifer from Mono”! Spring is making me get all itchy to get outdoors, but I will still be keeping the healthy elements of hygge in my days and nights. Since I wrote the article, we have rediscovered Monopoly, another gem. My knitting and/or crocheting has been abysmal however! ~ B

      Bethany on Apr 18, 2017 at 11:35 am | Reply

    2. Bethany, you read my mind! This year I too have embraced hygge, and not because CityLine told me to! I was so happy to learn that there is a word for what I can finally identify with as “my style”. To me, it has meant surrounding myself with natural materials, fibres and foods, not painting the woodwork, walking in the woods, having the neighbours over more often for no-fuss potlucks with wine and kitchen experiments, playing music unplugged, wearing wool, and yes, board games and 1,000-piece puzzles over the holidays. It has also seen us spending more time in a quiet home, in front of the fire, cuddling on the couch, ignoring the news. Hygge is heavenly! “Gezelligheid” is a new one on me, I’ll have to work on that.

      And oh, the wool! I’ve been rediscovering my knitting needles too, as friends have babies all around me. Also teaching my girls to knit and learning to crochet together. They love it and made a lot of people happy with handmade gifts this Christmas. We have amassed an overly ambitious (ok, slightly embarassing) collection of yarns, with a minimum wool content of course. Now I guess we’ll get to work for Hats On Dufferin.

      Thanks for another beautiful article, B! Made me feel all warm and fuzzy. 😀

      Jennifer from Mono on Mar 30, 2017 at 3:29 pm | Reply

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