Denmark’s Hygge Aesthetic Is Comfy, Cozy, and Complicit With the Rise of Xenophobic Populism

This winter, in preparation for what looks to be a terrifying year, millions of people traumatized by the ceaseless death and social turmoil of 2016 have decided to crawl back into the womb. Their return to fetal bliss is an Instagram-ready remake of the second half of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, complete with knitted sweaters, “adult” coloring books, and copious cups of calming teas. There are candles everywhere.

 

With a bilious mess of daddy-didn’t-love-me assuming the U.S. presidency in a matter of days and the Britain slowly inching its way out into the Atlantic, hygge—the Danish aesthetic import that elaborates comfort into a life philosophy—has crept towards the English-speaking West at just the right time. The endless stream of books published on the subject stress the benefits of Ugg-booted inertia and snug living rooms, covers pulled right up around adherents’ necks against the chilly world outside. These stocking-filler texts drive us towards a definition, too: The Little Book of Hygge has it as “cosiness of the soul;” Hygge, the Danish Art of Happiness compares it to “a compass, steering us towards small moments that money cannot buy.”

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