WE’VE just had a year of living Danishly — Nordic Noir box sets, the best restaurants in the world, and of course, hygge (pronounced hooga) – that hard-to-define state of well-being.
But we’ll try to define it. First, there is no direct English or Irish translation — the German ‘gemütlichkeit’ is probably closest.
It’s a feeling of cosiness, and then some: a way of dealing with the winter blues, of being good to yourself and your family, a way of keeping you and yours warm and content.
Aha, you’re probably saying, we Irish have been doing that for years; we just don’t write books about it.
We’ve been hygging and gemütlichkeiting from Malin Head to Mizzen Head since the year dot.
The hygge in Ireland, you might say, is frequently 90. We may not have the sub-zero temperatures of Denmark, but in a country which has been overcast since records began, we’ve learnt how to cheer ourselves up.
But Hibernian hygge is not the same as craic, although the two do overlap. But there is a subtle difference.
Here are nine ways to hygge like the Irish. And if you’re still not sure after this, we can still have the craic.
Stoke up the turf fire
There can be few more evocative smells than the smell of a turf fire.
OK, it’s a dreadfully impractical fuel (you’re basically trying to burn something than can be 50 per cent water) but the scent of peat is incomparable.
Light a candle
We Celts have been lighting candles since before we were Celts. No matter where you go, take a candle with you — the flickering light will stir something in your soul.
Have an Irish whiskey
If a candle doesn’t stir something in your soul, a drop of the hard stuff almost certainly will.
Woolly socks, woolly blankets. You get extra points of they’re hand knitted.
Wear a chunky Aran sweater
Nothing says hygge quicker than a woolly sweater.
And don’t be put off by the morbid tale of that the corpses of drowned Aran fishermen being identified by their sweaters.
This is a misconception based on a passage in Riders to the Sea by JM Synge, as un-hygge a man as you might find, despite the ‘y’ in his name.
Go to a session
A session, or seisún, of traditional music is the surefire way to lift the winter blues.
You don’t need to play an instrument or sing a song (although you’ll be more than welcome if you do); all you need to do is turn up.
Eat some rashers
For those of you with a flexible take on New Year’s resolutions, treat yourself to some homemade soda bread, salty butter, some rashers or a bacon rib joint that has loitered in maple syrup for three days.
Ensconce yourself in a cosy pub
The Irish pub is the very embodiment of hygge.
Ideally you need a rural one where the there will incorrigible informality, unselfconscious hospitality, and the promise of music or singing that might see you through to dawn.
If you’re staying at home, invite friends round
Play a game, sing a song, make a meal. Remember, friends are God’s way of saying “sorry about the family”.