Anne Arundel library features Hygge programs to combat dreary pandemic winter

You know that good-all-over feeling you get when you find a precious moment to relax in front of a fire with a book, after a hard day of work, house chores, or kid wrangling? There’s a Danish word for it—hygge. The AAC library is offering residents a chance to become more familiar with the growing trend during a presentation tomorrow, January 5, and then again in February. Hygge is pronounced not like the beginning of the word “hygiene”, but instead as “who-guh”. Residents of Denmark coined a term for this state of being, that so many of us crave but too rarely get the chance to enjoy. “It evokes a feeling and sense of belonging, relaxation and enjoyment,” said Tuesday night’s presenter, author Cheryl Stritzel McCarthy. “It often involves a fireside gathering, ambient lighting and possibly cake.” McCarthy, who wrote the well-received “Many Hands Make Light Work: A Memoir” published by She Writes Press in 2019, has gained significant experience with Hygge. She wrote an article on the subject, which was picked up by multiple major newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun. She said she has gotten very good at creating Hygge over the years by necessity. Due to her husband, Bob’s, career in the oil industry, they have moved many times in the last two decades. Creating that sense of sanctuary hygge can offer was a must-have. “With a lot of practice I got really good at it,” she said. “I was creating it and living it long before I knew what it was. I think we all knew the concept of hygge, we just didn’t have a word for it.” Hygge may be an old Danish term from ages ago, but the modern generation has given it new energy and built it into a trend. The word can now be used in multiple ways. “You can live in a hygge house,” McCarthy notes. “You can have a hygge time with friends. You can create hygge.” There are some requirements for hygge, she said. You need to have engaged in a counterbalancing activity beforehand to induce hygge. That could be a long winter hike, time outdoors, or just a hard day at work. There are many possibilities. “If you just gathered around the fire without something (else happening)--that would not by hygge,” she explained. “It is something that is fairly well known in the library world,” said AAC Library Director of Communications Christine Feldmann. But Feldmann said this is the first time the library will have a presentation on the concept. The 25 Zoom slots are already booked for Tuesday, but a wait list may be available. Not to worry though. On February 17, the Anne Arundel County Public Library will be presenting the teleconference “The Hygge Happy Hour with Meik Wiking.” Wiking runs the Happiness Research Center, and his books—which include “The Little Book of Hygge—The Danish Way to Live Well”--have sold over a million copies. Registration for that event begins online at the Anne Arundel County Public Library website February 3. Tuesday, January 5th’s talk is expected to present those attending with tips and insight on hygge. McCarthy said it will be relaxing and enjoyable. “They’ll learn a lot of interesting things that they did not expect—practical and easy tips for improving their experience of winter,” she said. The author said the pandemic has not created an impediment to the hygge experience. Being confined at home may actually accentuate the experience and break down borders. Distance is no longer an impediment, McCarthy said. You can have a far-flung game night with friends. The contrast needed to create the circumstances for hygge might simply be participants’ completion of a day of work, “There’s just no reason not to (enjoy hygge) anymore,” she said. “We need it now more than ever.” During her interview she said she had learned through a reader review that her memoir had helped create hygge for them. The reviewer wrote reading the memoir was like: “Drinking a mug of hot chocolate while cuddled up in a blanket next to a fire on a cold day.” As the Danes, and now the rest of the world are breathing new life into the old word “hygge”, only more time will tell how the concept might evolve. In a world saturated with the impact and messaging of the coronavirus pandemic, a strong prescription of hygge may be a welcome antidote for many. It is up to the individual to explore what their personal hygge experience might be. “Joy and acceptance—that’s hygge and that’s my favorite part,” McCarthy said. “(It) depends on the people who create it.” The author said she is available to give presentations for groups small and large without a booking fee.