By Laura Rinas
If you have not heard yet, this past year was the year of Hygge (pronounced Hoo-guh). 2016 was the year we all Marie Kondo’ed our house, and 2017 had us searching for this Danish concept of Hygge, which means a whole bunch of things in the English language, but mostly contentment, comfort, togetherness. It’s letting your socks lay unfolded (you can apologize to them later) and instead lighting a candle, reading a good book, refilling your coffee when you’ve reached the bottom of your mug. Of course, as Hygge has trickled into western culture, there are those that have tried their best to monetize it and put a price on seeking and possibly even finding contentment and peace. But for the most part, Hygge comes with no extra cost, except a willingness to release your grip on a few things in order to open up part of your life to stillness and rest.
It’s been interesting to watch as our culture picks up on this idea. It seems, at least in part, that we are in the beginnings of tipping out of our Stuff-driven lives, and finally beginning to grasp that happiness and contentment are not tied to the amount of stuff we own or the size of our house. We are the toddlers, who were given all these new toys with the industrial age, and now perhaps are growing bored of them… perhaps now just realizing that all we want at the end of the day is to lay in bed with mom and have her read to us. It seems, perhaps, that we are watching as the consumer driven market veers uncomfortably off the track its been on for the last 50 or so years, where we have finally outgrown Quantity and would like now to focus on Quality.
So coming to this Christmas season, you might be finding yourself more inline with our culture than you have in past years… sure, there are still big box stores forcing 100-page long catalogs at our kids as we walk through the door, but the general feeling this year is that these things Aren’t Enough, and that we want more. We want Hygge. We want contentment. We want to be loved and to have people to love. We want to have a purpose, to have a calling. We want to matter.
There are all sorts of ways that are being presented to us to get these things, of course. We can try Minimalism, we can try whispering to our belongings as if they would love us more if we didn’t just shove them into our drawers at the end of a long day. We can immerse ourselves in a Fit and Active lifestyle. We can change our diets (but not DIET, that’s no good anymore). We can embrace our spiritual sides. We can learn to say No, but also to say Yes.
People, even non-Christians, are drawn to this Christmas season. Whether or not they believe in the baby that lay in the manger, this season calls to our hearts. If you can look past the commercialization, you can see that the idea of generosity and charity and warm fireplaces and open tables sings to a part of our collective human nature. Some might say that it’s because it feels nice, and IS nice, everybody (at least the rational ones) wants Nice. But I wager it’s something different.
I wager that, whether we know it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, that we, as humans, are called to this season, to these things, because we recognize it. We gravitate towards wanting togetherness because we come from a communal God. We gravitate towards peace and charity because they are whispers of our Creator, shadows on the wall of the Real Things. We gravitate towards love because we were born from Love, because of Love. We recognize our story, and the divine whispers that formed our very nature stirs within us.
The concept of Hygge is lovely. To be present, to really BE PRESENT, and to be able to see the beauty in the moments and people that surround you. But I say that, if you want the true Hygge of both this Season and your life, that you must look to Jesus for these things. Rest, contentment, love, community, peace, hope, joy. These things, the true forms of these things, can only be found through the filter of the cross. You can find the shadows of them, you can create moments that seem like the real thing, but that bone-deep version, the kind that sits in your belly and makes you sing, that only comes from one place. It’s the kind that is still there when you’ve had a mess of a day, still there through loss and grief, still there through sickness and pain. It’s still there despite the chaos and the crazy.
Jesus gives us these things, and the sheer amount of it spills right out of us and onto the people we surround ourselves with. This is the true Hygge. To recognize Jesus as the bearer of our peace and contentment, and then to invite others into this space, invite others to this ever-growing table. Invite them to eat and drink, to rest and restore.
So as you go out this Christmas, into what may be a season of joy, yes, but perhaps also a season that is tinged with grief, chaos, stress, loss… take a moment to see your Hygge. Take a moment to find your rest and recognize that through the carols, through the presents, through the food, through the tears, through the sugar, through the emptiness, Jesus is there. And then, when you can, pull down extra cups from your cupboards, start the coffee, and open your doors. Help others find Hygge, too.