Summertime Hygge: The Perfect Picnic

Hygge.  The Danish word may not have an English equivalent, but the concept resonates strongly and wordlessly in my American soul.  It’s a brilliant little term; a single word which manages to describe a mood, vibe, mindset, atmosphere, and belief system in just five letters.  “Cozy” is a word often used as an English synonym, but hygge is much more than that.  

My understanding is that for something to be “hygge” it must embody a degree of warmth, security, and charm, while fostering serenity, connection and conviviality in the simplest possible way.   This in turn creates gratitude and peace with what is.  To put it more simply, to me, things that are “hyggelig” give me the warm and fuzzies.

The seasons that feel the most hyggelig to me have always been fall and winter.  Retailers attempt to market the concept by featuring “hygge” products like fuzzy blankets, woolly socks, and spice-scented candles.  All good stuff!  I do incorporate these into my own home decor which is simple, not flashy, and soothes the senses without overwhelming them.  My seating is arranged to promote relaxation and foster communication.  My cozy and quaint abode is great for intimate gatherings of four to eight.  

Creating hygge in my home for myself and my guests has always required decorative bits of nature artfully strewn about.  In fall and winter, in addition to houseplants, I attempt to bring the outdoors in.  This means jars and baskets brimming with things like pinecones, acorns, pumpkins, gourds, cinnamon sticks, and sprigs of holly.

So how do we experience summertime hygge?

With the longer, warmer, sun drenched days, and nature in full bloom, summer is the time of year to take hygge outdoors.  What better way to do that than with THE perfect picnic?

Instead of four walls, look to the trees for that cozy sense of safety and security.  Trees are the majestic mansions to lots of cleverly camouflaged wildlife; squirrels, birds, racoons…  Choose the right one to protect you and fellow picnickers from the sun and wind.  The shelter under a big leafy tree will provide a cooler temperature privacy (how romantic!).  Instead of the flickering of indoor candle light, enjoy the flickering sunlight filtered through gently swaying branches.

Lawn chairs are ok, but for me, the best picnic is closer to the ground on a cozy blanket.  Having more of yourself in closer contact to the grass, you can experience “grounding,” which is an energetic connection to the surface of the earth. Kick off your shoes and let the soles of your bare feet touch the grass and soil.  Notice the temperature and consistency of the ground beneath you.

As for sound, hyggelig indoor gatherings are usually set to some jazzy coffee house music, but for perfect summertime hygge, forget the stereo and let nature create your soundtrack.  Laughter and light conversation can intermingle with the sounds of chirping birds, buzzing bees, the rustle of leaves, and if you’re lucky, running water from a nearby brook or stream.  During the silences between chatter don’t struggle to fill the space but be comfortable with the “quiet” and extend your hearing as far as it can go and try to differentiate between as many different nature sounds as possible.

Savor the food and drink you choose to fill your picnic basket.  Pack seasonal fruits and nuts.  Instead of the heavy soups and baked goodies that warm the soul in winter and fall, incorporate cold, light foods like salads and cheeses into your spread (minimally processed if possible).  For drinks, brew your own iced tea, or make fresh lemonade or fruit-infused water.  I love simple lemon water because it is invigorating and cleansing.

As I’ve said before, hygge is a simple word with a complex meaning that describes more than the physical environment.  It also defines a state of mind.  Summertime hygge, like the hygge of chillier seasons, is about experiencing deep gratitude for the simple things in life with close friends and loved ones. It’s about extending love and sensing connection beyond your company and further out into nature by taking your gathering outside.  It’s about:

  • Communing with the beauty and bounty of the great outdoors.  
  • Connecting with the source.  
  • Sensing the earth’s energy.
  • Experiencing gratitude for your own life through immersion in nature.

Ahh, summertime hygge…

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