Hygge is a little Danish word I know because my Mother was born and raised in Denmark, and my Dad lived there for two and a half years. I don’t remember my Mom giving me the definition of the word, I just knew it meant what you feel when you see a darling baby or child, or a pretty little spot in the forest, or sitting around a fire, or what you feel at a warm family gathering. I learned what it meant by living in it. When visiting family in Denmark I recognized it when I went to their homes and after the evening meal, we sat at the table talking and enjoying the warm glow of being together.
Hygge is especially important at Christmas, as friends and families gather to celebrate Jultid (Christmas time), and enjoy the customs of the season. Things like dancing around the Christmas tree, pork roast with red cabbage, small browned potatoes, and rice pudding bring to mind the warm essence of hygge. Valentines Day isn’t celebrated with the fervor and enthusiasm of the Americans, but considering the way hearts are used in Danish decor, it really should be their national holiday!
Collins English Dictionary defines the word hygge as “a concept, originating in Denmark, of creating cozy and convivial atmospheres that promote wellbeing”. This dictionary also named hygge second only to Brexit as word of the year in the UK in 2016, and currently, there’s a hygge craze in Great Britain, with hygge displays in stores and shops, and entire books that cover the subject. To name a few: Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness, The Little Book of Hygge: The Cozy Life: Rediscover the Joy of Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge, How to Hygge: the Secrets of Nordic Living, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well, Keep Calm and Hygge: A Guide to the Danish Art of Simple and Cozy Living. I expect that hygge will be invading America very soon, as well!
Now that we all know what it means, I wish you all a hygge day. Hygge to all on this Valentines Day — a celebration of hearts — and the heart !
This is a picture of my Great-Grandmother, Mary Keller Domgaard, and her son Kermit Domgaard, (Uncle Kerm to all of us), just after he came home from serving in the US Army during WW II. He was a bachelor, and in his thirties when he left. She was close to seventy and had been a widow for many years. He made it home alive after serving for almost three years and participating in the Normandy invasion. He rarely spoke of what he’d seen or done. His Mother was a Mormon pioneer straight from Germany, and his Father was born of Mormon pioneer parents from Denmark. They lived in Manti, Utah, where they worked hard their entire lives. They were the best of people.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like to send a son to war.
There was a program on the other day about soldiers coming home after WW II. One veteran described his homecoming like this: “I’d written my Mother telling her what day I would arrive, but not the time, because I didn’t know. So when I got in to town, I just walked home from the train station. I knocked on the door, and when my Mother opened it she looked at me and said my name in a way I had never heard her say it before. Her voice was filled with so much pent-up relief and emotion. I never heard her say my name in that way again, and she lived to be 85”.
It’s mostly men who fight, but it’s the women who seem to bear the terrible cost. I don’t know what’s worse. I hope there will be a day when all people are so good that there won’t be a need for war anymore. These soldiers fought for a noble cause, but it was evil that made it necessary. I am indebted to them for the life I live.
Today is Veteren’s Day and I’m thinking about my visits to the American Military Cemetery in Normandy, France. The first time I visited there I was just 19. We had been visiting WW I and II sites for a couple of days, and I was getting a little tired of it. Then we came to this cemetery. Nothing made the cost of war so real (at least in my mind) as this cemetery did or the enormity of the sacrifice. It’s impossible to put into words the way I felt when I saw the thousands of crosses and about three hundred Stars of David, overlooking the Normandy Coast. Sadness, loss, deep gratitude, and reverence come to mind. I have since been there with my parents, and with my children. It was an emotional experience for all of us. This is a hallowed place. Today I salute courage, valor, and sacrifice, both of soldiers and of Mothers.
Several years ago we were asked about joining a country club. I thought it over for a while and wondered about the pros and cons. A country club is a place where some people can go and enjoy golfing, swimming, tennis, and other activities in a controlled atmosphere. Country clubs have various criteria to be met in order to gain membership. People who don’t meet the criteria will not become members. I never liked that idea. I decided that our family would be members of another kind of country club. My thoughts were that the time and money that would otherwise be spent on club activities and dues would be spent on travel to actual countries. That was going to be our family’s country club. I wanted my children to see as much of the world as possible. I’ve never been sorry about my decision. There are many things that can keep us from traveling. Money is one, health, time, and fear of the unknown are others. If you have the means and opportunity, travel as much as practically possible. If you have children, take them a long as well when it’s reasonable. Even if it means saving your pennies, going without some of the luxuries, planning, and being brave. Our family’s best memories and those we talk about the most, are the magnificent trips we’ve taken together. They aren’t necessarily magnificent because of any extravagance, but because we are out of our element, experiencing a new culture, and making new friends. We are away from the media, the work, and the social obligations. And we are together. Travel widens our horizons and opens our eyes. It changes us forever.
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou
I booked my flight so I had a couple of days in Italy before hooking up with family elsewhere in Europe. I flew in to Fiumicino Airport and took the train to Rome – about half an hour away. I emerged from the train station and a thrill went through me as I took in this beautiful city. I couldn’t help but smile, and pinched myself to make sure I was really here. I had dreamed about this for so long. I grabbed a drink and quickly found my way to a double-decker bus that would take me from site to site. The air was still, and it was sunny. As the day went on the heat was oppressive and the humidity stifling; but I was determined to see everything I could, even if I was drenched in perspiration. As the next stop came up, my heart beat faster. This was the it. The place I had always hoped to see before I died, and here I was, walking towards it! I had expected to be let off right in from of it, but had to wind my way down a couple of streets, which made the anticipation build even more. As I neared it, I could hear the rushing water. All of a sudden the street opened up to a plaza – – and there it was, the Trevi Fountain! It was very crowded and people were everywhere, like hordes of seals, sunning themselves on a beach. I lingered at the edge of the fountain for a long time, taking it all in – the sight, the smells, the sounds; still not sure if this was all a dream. Then I found a place to sit. The only thing I would change would be that next time, I won’t go alone. Being there by myself was better than not being there at all, but I couldn’t help thinking about how nice it would be to share it with a loved one.
Finally I got up, but it was hard – I didn’t want to leave this place. I had enjoyed watching all the other people come up to the fountain, many for the first time — on a pilgrimage, like myself. I went down the steps to the fountain and tossed in a coin. That meant I would return again someday. As Audrey Hepburn said in the movie Roman Holiday:
“Rome! By all means, Rome. I will cherish my visit here in memory as long as I live . . .” Amen.
(C) Copyright 2015 by Tamara Lawrence. All rights reserved.