In the bleakness of winter, the Danes stay cozy. It’s a point of national pride—identity, even—and there’s a word for it: hygge. It’s a way of life that entails maximizing personal comfort, setting up an ideal hyggekrog or comfortable corner, ideally lit with candles or even better—a roaring fireplace, and decked with squishy pillows and snuggly blankies. Chunky knitted sweaters and fuzzy socks loom large, along with mugs of tea, artful pastries and hearty porridges, all shared in the sparkling cheer of assembled friends and family. But you’re just trying to stay warm, man. That level of tidiness and bonhomie seems terribly daunting when it’s not bred into you from birth, but all of a sudden, it’s a dank, soggy snow day and you want to make the most of the whole working from home and not being expected to wear real pants thing.
Related article: Eating breakfast with Nobel Prize winners
Hygge tea party
What it’s supposed to be: You and your besties sit around in boiled wool slippers (because of course you have freshly-laundered extra pairs for guests), nibbling cunning pastries, warming your hands on mugs of Lapsang Souchong, with maybe some, I dunno, Ed Sheeran on in the background. (He seems cozy—or at the very least fuzzy, like a woodland creature.) No screens—the laughter and warmth of your conversation is entertainment enough.
What actually happens: This seems like a great time to finish off the ends of the bottles that mysteriously manifested in your liquor cabinet. Invite a few friends over, have them leave their sopping boots and socks on top of some newspapers by the front door and just deal with their weird, naked toes. Find some old cocoa packets or tea someone who doesn’t know you very well gave you in the back of the cupboard, and spike each cup with a different booze until you give up the pretense altogether and start doing shots until you all sprawl into a group nap on whatever soft surfaces are available while someone’s laptop streams every season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Just, like, try to keep your feet off my hair, OK? If your friends are awesome, they will bring whatever chips they have on hand. Then you can make a casserole. More on that in a bit.
Related article: Nordic rye porridge tastes way better than it sounds
What it’s supposed to be: Candles—especially the scented kind—loom large in hyggeland. The flickering light has been determined the most definitively cozy means of illumination, and in a properly hygged-out space, lit candles adorn every surface and of course never drip onto anything, get knocked over by an errant tail wag, or set the whole place ablaze in a charming, yet deadly fashion. Fun fact: The Danish equivalent of a party pooper is a “lyseslukker,” which translates as the one who puts out the candles, and the average Dane burns 13 pounds of candle wax a year.
What actually happens: Apparently a lot of lung disease from inhaling all those particles in enclosed spaces. (Crack a window, Denmark! We need you safe.) But you’re back at home scrounging around for that sack of tea lights that you could have sworn you picked up during your last IKEA run, but could have easily forgotten to actually put in your basket after you started sobbing uncontrollably in the lighting department and had to be whisked away and administered meatballs until you could compose yourself. So it’s pretty much just gonna be one of those weird “money” or random saint candles you picked up as a joke when you were wasted in the bodega one night. Or possibly that seashell candle you got in the office gift swap from a woman you didn’t even know worked there. It does not smell comforting in any way.
Related article: Ikea’s groceries is brunch’s best kept secret
Hygge cozy fireplace
What it’s supposed to be: Every single stock photo depiction of hygge includes your boiled wool slippers kicked up in front of the roaring warmth of a fireplace. It’s just like every depiction of a perfect, Leave It to Beaver-style Christmas. In the hygge photos, the fire is both well-tended and supplied by a seemingly infinite pile of just-so chopped wooden logs.
What actually happens: First, you have no actual working fireplace. If you do have a fireplace, it’s one that you use for stacking books from your overflow pile, and/or column candles because of one time you saw someone doing that on Pinterest. The fireplace does not work, because if it did, it would have the inconvenient effect of setting the apartment above you ablaze. You settle for Netflix’s “Fireplace for Your Home” on your laptop instead. After five minutes, you get bored and turn on House Hunters.
What it’s supposed to be: You have tiny, elegantly-shaped cardamom-spiced shortbread cookies to dip into the cocoa that you made from scratch, which is poured into bespoke mugs with festive snowflake patterns adorning their sides. You have a cheese plate with tiny, perfect samples of many different varieties laid out. Maybe you even bring out the fondue pot! Every morsel of food is perfectly composed and consumed with equal thoughtfulness, as you snuggle up next to your inexplicably roaring fire in your perfect socks.
What actually happens: You have sourced a cheese rind from the deepest caverns of your fridge, carved off any mold-bloom-looking-spots, and eaten it whole while watching House Hunters. You don’t have the ingredients for cocoa, but you do have Swiss Miss. Somehow you mess up the mixing or the microwaving of the cocoa, because a thin film of powder remains floating on the surface of your cocoa-water mixture. You drink it anyway. Lacking any lovingly-knitted snowflake cozies for your mug, you use a clean sweat sock. The clean part is what’s impressive. If there is a composed food dish around, it is a dirtbag casserole, thrown together with the end-of-the-party leftovers.
Need inspiration? We gotchu.
This article originally appeared in Extra Crispy.