I seem to be lagging in the times these days as I had never heard of the word: Hygge, until a friend mentioned to me that my current lifestyle resembled it. I feel that given what I have learned, it’s an honour to live it but in truth, it was always there, starting a family, a business, endless working hours, I know I found time to rest my mind, savour comfort of the dinner table, light a candle, feel a connection to nature, no matter the circumstances.
Hygge is a Danish word as defined by The Oxford English Dictionary as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being, regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture.” A similar expression is the German word of gemuetlichkeit which my relatives use. I have long loved that when asked how she is spending an evening, my Godmother says that she is making herself gemütlich….it’s a difficult action to translate into English. It is almost a state of being. A place of mental and physical comfort, of being relaxed and enjoying life. My godmother is great at making sure that gemütlichkeit is a state that she finds herself in often.
January feels like that to me. Comfort inside with the cold out. Hot soup or hot chocolate after a satisfying walk or ski. When the girls were small we often just stayed in for the day, enjoying our home, playing with toys, making lunch and eating by the fire. The fire itself is a big source of comfort (even though mine is now operated by a remote) but I remember at the farm, our feeling of well-being our feet nestled on the open oven door to get the maximum benefit despite slogging the wood into the woodbox every evening and making the fires in the morning, a cold house before the heat kicks in.
I find that my mind settles in a more relaxed way in the winter months and I usually spend more time alone and in thought or delving into home organizing projects. When I lived at the farm, despite the cold and snow I did have the ease of the Ballyduff trails at my doorstep – literally. I knew that moving into town, I would miss the trails and remember how easy it was to be outside. Connecting with nature every day is the “happy place” in my life.
I haven’t been aware of it as much before as now which no doubt is due to the pandemic and an awareness that hardship is everywhere. With the world in lockdown mode because of the pandemic, there is a bit of a forced solitude, a few steps back instead of forward. It’s hard to see people and businesses stuck, hoping for a reprieve and a chance to keep afloat.
Through it all, I hope we find a small bit of comfort that we can create with the simplest of ingredients, each other, our community, maybe a soup on the stove, a good book, a call with a friend, a walk through the forest. For me it’s finding a new walk with the dogs, a cozy blanket, a lit candle and of course, delicious things to cook like long braised onions on the back burner to use in a tart or stew. Hygge, Gemütlichkeit can be found everywhere if one allows it in.
About Danielle French
I founded South Pond Farms in 2008. The property is on the Oak Ridges Moraine in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe Mississauga. South Pond started as a small food delivery business making fresh prepared meals from ingredients in my garden. Together with my family, we restored the barn, the iconic heritage silo and the land to become a destination for authentic culinary experiences, weddings, celebrations, workshops. Inspired from the farm, I also create a line of culinary products and gifts.
In 2021, I was ready to move away from the farm. As much as I loved the land and the country, it was time to let someone else bring their passion to what we had created. My new home is in Peterborough, Ontario where I’m taking some time to write, contemplate next steps, train my dogs, blog about recipes and interesting explorations and unpack!