‘Hygge’ is like a winter hug


PINEDALE –  Outside, snow drifts in the wind. Streets are abandoned; the darkness is inhospitable.

But inside, tables sparkle with lit candles flickering in golden and glass holders, large pine cones nestled on a table, draped with neutral textured linens. Barely sweet biscuits beckon from a silver tray and rich hot chocolate steams in enameled mugs, their colors reminiscent of a Scandinavian palette.

These small details set the scene for the Danish tradition of “hygge” – pronounced hoog-ah – a concept of wellbeing and coziness that it is easily transplanted to the winter climes of Sublette County, according to Alise Watson.

Watson, an event planner for 15 years, is now director of adult programs at Sublette County’s Pinedale Library and on Nov. 3, shared decorating tips and hygge inspiration during a workshop. On display was “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” by Meik Wiking.

“We’re all getting ready to head into six months of cold and darkness,” Watson said. “I love the way Nordic countries live in general and hygge is a good concept for Pinedale. Little things can make a big difference.”

There is no “really perfect definition” for hygge, she said. It means creating a sense of wellbeing, coziness, happiness – like a hug. It means an atmosphere of simple, neutral palettes and bringing nature inside where everyone feels a sense of community as a group. Nothing contentious will be discussed.

Anna Sammer shared her Danish cousin’s explanation of hygge – a “charming” way to live year-round in harmony without drama and to engage intentionally with others.

She and Watson noted that candles are of utmost importance in Danish life. Watson relies on candles and twinkly lights for ambiance when designing events and at home.

“Danes use more candles than anyone,” Watson said, preferring natural light.

Natural, simple and quality ingredients are keys to reduce smoke and toxins. Watson prepared soy wax and essential oils for each person to make one and take home in a simple mug.

Participants also bottled and flavored “simple syrup” with vanilla pods and cinnamon sticks. Simple syrup is just that – equal parts of water and sugar simmered down to half. Some use it in coffee and tea, on pancakes and in baked goods.

The third take-home project was a stoppered glass bottle of bath salts with dried herbs and dried petals. Watson chose Dead Sea salt and a fanciful selection of jasmine, lavender, peony, calendula and rose, along with dried fig and lemon slices.

Each woman was given a kraft bag to take home their bits of hygge.

Watson is constantly coming up with projects and events for the Pinedale Library and asks people to register only to get a sense of numbers.

She recently hosted the When I Dip You Dip We Dip Contest & Social Hour, inviting people to bring in their favorite dip, vie for votes and enjoy a beverage.

Beginning Thursday, Dec. 1, on first Thursdays at 5:30 p.m., Watson invites “solo” parents and their kids to learn about the library resources, get and give support and enjoy snacks. This is the Spectacular Single Parents.

Watson also plans to bring back the Roberts Burn Night Supper (with haggis, poetry and bagpipes) in late January. In the meantime, watch the calendar and Facebook for more of her entertaining events.

To contact Alise Watson, email awatson@sublettecountylibrary.org or call 307-367-4114.