138: How to embrace holy hygge in your home with Jamie Erickson
From a Norwegian term meaning “to comfort” or “to console,” hygge has gained in popularity in recent years. There’s even a hygge line at Target.
But it’s more than cozy living.
As author Jamie Erickson says, it’s a way of making the mundane and necessary meaningful and beautiful. It’s soul rest.
Her new book, “Holy Hygge: Creating a Place for People to Gather and the Gospel to Grow,” shows us how.
Jamie is a homeschooling mom to five kids. She encourages other moms on the Mom to Mom podcast, through her blog The Unlikely Homeschool and as a speaker and author.
Now she has given us a guide to hygge as it appeals to our desire for slow living and shared moments. For warmth and simplicity. For home.
And all of this is sacred, Jamie says, when understood in the light of Christ and his kingdom.
Jamie is on the show today to share how this Danish lifestyle pairs with the deep, theological truths of the gospel—and how hygge can help us make a home where people can find God, especially as we enter this New Year.
Show highlights include:
- More of Jamie’s story.
- About her new book.
- Why she thinks hygge appeals to so many people.
- What changed in her home when she began to embrace hygge.
- Whether hygge is only for this cozy time of year.
- How it intersects with faith.
- Ideas of a few easy changes we can make in our homes to begin practicing holy hygge.
- What Jamie hopes readers will take away from her book.
- One thing to get started with this practice today.
Listen and subscribe to the Do Gooders Podcast now. Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.
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Christin Thieme: Jamie, welcome to the Do Gooders Podcast today. Thank you so much for joining me.
Jamie Erickson: I am so thrilled to be here. Thank you for having me.
Christin Thieme: Me too. It’s that cozy time of year, so I think this is going to be a good episode for all of us as we’re basking in that Christmas afterglow, if you will. So as we start out here, can you share a little bit about who are you, a little bit about your story?
Jamie Erickson: Yeah. So as you said, I’m Jamie Erickson. And I am originally from the inner city of Phoenix. I met my husband about 23 years ago at college, and he was from a very small town in central Minnesota. And if you know anything about Minnesota, you know that it is the Scandinavian mecca in the United States. It boasts the largest amount of Scandinavians in the country, and he is one of them. He’s actually mostly Danish with a little bit of Norwegian thrown in. And when we decided to get married and pick a place to live, we moved all the way up to his neck of the woods, and we literally landed right in the middle of the woods. So if you can imagine what this inner city Phoenix girl felt like when she was dropped in the middle of a one horse town in the middle of nowhere in the near tundra of Minnesota, it was quite stark for me.
All I can do is say that for the first, I don’t know, year or two, probably if I’m being really honest, five years, every time I walked into a room, I had this internal monologue playing in my head, and it was from the 1980s Sesame Street song. One of these things just doesn’t belong here. I was so vastly out of my element. But one thing that I was really captivated by is this sense that Midwesterners have, this cozy, comforting contentment that just exudes out of them. And that was really compelling to me. So even though I felt really out of my element, I wanted to scooch closer. I wanted to be one of them.
I am married to my husband. We’ve been married for 20 years now, and we have five kids. I’m a homeschool mom. And I write as a side hustle. But mostly, I just love Jesus, love my family.
Christin Thieme: I love it. And you have been writing, you have a new book that is called “Holy Hygge: Creating a Place for People to Gather and the Gospel to Grow.” Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
Jamie Erickson: Well, that comforting contentment that I saw from all of my husband’s family and friends actually had a name. It comes from their Danish lifestyle. The word is hygge. And we don’t really have an English translation for it, so it really is hard to nail down in our American terms. But the CliffNotes is it’s just a lifestyle concept that engenders feelings of comfort, contentment and coziness. And all of those things are wonderful. And from an outsider’s perspective, it really did make me feel welcome into their community. But what I found is if you peel back the layers of hygge, and there are about seven main tenants to a hyggely lifestyle, they really mirror or mimic what you see in the first perfect home, the Garden of Eden. And they have taken some of those things that were in the garden and have put their own stamp on them. And you might call that a secular practice. A lot of people would look at a hygge lifestyle and say that’s secular. We could certainly argue whether there is such a thing as secular or sacred, but really, it was just their attempt to make a perfect home here on Earth.
Christin Thieme: I guess that probably lends itself to why this concept is so appealing to so many people. I feel like we’ve seen it more and more in recent years.
Jamie Erickson: Right, it’s become wildly popular in the last five or six years here in the states. In fact, target.com has a whole hygge line, and HGTV has a whole design aesthetic called Hygge. It’s very trendy here in the U.S.; let’s just put it that way. I think it’s really appealing to most of us because it does mimic that sanctuary life-like atmosphere of the garden. Before God made humanity, he made a home for them. And there were certain aspects of that first home that contributed to its perfection.
And then, of course, we know sin and death came slinking in and brought an eviction notice, and so home was lost. And so now all of humanity, whether we want to recognize it or not, is homeless. We’re nomads desperate to feel that garden-like comfort once again. It’s ingrained in us. We’re always longing for home. Our family, our friends, our neighbors are longing for home.
To the Danes, hygge is that paradise on Earth that I was sharing. And they’re right. To some degree, it is, but everything else that the world tries to give us, it does fall short because hygge in and of itself is just really mere veneer. It’s laid over a life. But when you take God out of the equation, all you have left is a counterfeit. God really was what made the garden perfect. It wasn’t the fact that it had a great atmosphere or there was a lot of contentment there or that people could rest there. What made it perfect was God. And so when we remove him, it’s just a counterfeit.
And I think the second reason why it’s so appealing is that if you lean in really closely, you see that those seven main tenets don’t just mirror the garden. They actually mirror our second home, the second perfect home, which is Jesus. If you look at his life and the abundant life in Christ, he lived out all the hyggely tenets—hospitality, deep relational connections. He modeled what it looks like to care for yourself but also care for others. He created a life-giving atmosphere. Ironically, even though he never had a place to lay his head, he showed us the way to create a lovely home that provided comfort and contentment and rest. He did it first, and now we’re all trying to pattern our lives after him. So I think those are the two main reasons it’s so appealing. Even to our friends and neighbors who may not know Jesus, it’s compelling when you see that beautiful perfection.
Christin Thieme: Yes, absolutely. And like you said, everybody has an intrinsic longing for home. So I want to touch on both sides of what you just shared. First of all, when you moved to the tundra, as you called it, experienced this comfort and contentment, this hygge, and then eventually began to embrace it as your own, practically speaking, what changed about your home when you started to embrace hygge in your life?
Jamie Erickson: Well, I want to be very clear and say I already had a relationship with Jesus even before I met my husband. So certainly, when I moved up to Minnesota, I was a believer in Christ. But I feel like when I began to unpack and peel back all the layers of hygge, I feel like it helped me begin to actually live the life that I said I ascribed to, one where Christ wasn’t just a social accessory, but he was an ever present partner and ruler of my days. Practically speaking, I know I found myself opening my doors more often because hygge gave me permission to do that, showed me how to do that with ease, where it wasn’t so burdensome. I started welcoming others into what I like to call scruffy hospitality, the kind where folks were free to bring their real selves into my home, the kind of self that didn’t require them to clean up first and, on the flip side, didn’t require or demand that I clean up first.
Having family and friends in my home was no longer about perfection, having the perfect menu, the perfect decor, perfect atmosphere. I wasn’t just entertaining. I was loving. I was learning to sit and be present, which doesn’t come naturally to me. I normally am an overachiever, a do-gooder, we can say. But it really did help me to just sit and be present. And that was compelling to my friends and neighbors. It invited others to draw close to me. And in the process, I hope that I was allowing them to draw closer to Jesus.
Christin Thieme: And I think that’s an important point. It goes to that deeper hospitality. I think so often we think of hygge as the cozy time of year with hot cocoa and mittens and a fire, but it’s not only for the winter. Right?
Jamie Erickson: Right. Absolutely. Hygge is seeped in seasonal living, and obviously, winter is the most hygge time of the year. But hygge is just about living in the present, in this very moment that you’re given. And so for some, that’s pretty much summer all the live long day. I know when I lived in Phoenix, we had two seasons, summer and January. But I could hygge in Phoenix. In fact, I was just back in Phoenix last week, and I can attest that you can hygge. We have summer in Minnesota. Obviously, it’s very short. Sometimes it feels like all of two seconds, if I’m being honest, but we have one. And so we hygge in summer. One way I think that I feel like I can hygge well in summer is I have an embarrassingly large collection of summer dresses and sandals if you looked at my closet. It makes absolutely no sense knowing that I can only wear them for a couple weeks out of the year, but it’s my way of fully enjoying and delighting in that particular season.
So I save up all those little summer dresses, and I wear them one right after the other. And I probably look a little too dressy for just working in my yard, but it’s what I can do to help me enjoy that season more. And that’s really part and parcel of hygge, just really being fully present where you are. Summer is unpretentious. It welcomes simple pleasures, like childlike pace, a run through the sprinkler, a picnic under the stars or a bike ride. And so often when we do those things, or pick whatever season you want to think about spring, autumn, whatever, so often when we embrace certain aspects of each season, we don’t really stop to think about what a gift they actually are, especially for those of us who experience one particular season through most of the year. We tend to grow discontent. We tend to overlook the simple pleasures of that season, but hygge really compels us to notice and to appreciate the things even more. Seasons remind us that you can’t have and do anything you want whenever you want to do them. You have to learn to make beautiful use out of whatever is given to you in that season because seasons are God designed for a reason. So hygge really helps us live with contentment in whatever season we’re in practically, physically in the season that we’re in or even just emotionally and relationally in the season that we’re in.
Christin Thieme: You’ve talked a little bit about how this idea of hygge intersects with your faith. And the title of your book is “Holy Hygge.” So can you share a little bit more about how fully embracing this idea has helped to deepen and even given you opportunities to share your faith?
Jamie Erickson: Sure. I think once upon a time, if you look at church history, Christians went door to door giving out gospel tracts. The Salvation Army was really great about that, even every Christmas standing in front of buildings ringing the bell. We have had different ways throughout history of sharing the hope of Jesus with our neighbors. There was a time we set up tent revivals, or we’d preach in the middle of a public square. And those things helped light a fire, the fire of Christ. And really, it did spread. We had great revival throughout different times in our history, but a lot of those things were for then. We’re now living in a really post-Christian world where folks are, let’s just be honest, cynical about religion. Would you agree with that?
Christin Thieme: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Jamie Erickson: And I would say probably rightfully so in a lot of ways. We need to show them that following our faith isn’t about a religion. It’s about a relationship. And so that really starts with us. As we begin to build relationships with our friends and neighbors, when we open our physical doors to our home, especially in our post-pandemic society where everybody was so used to being locked up and isolated, when we physically open our doors and welcome people in, we’re actually potentially opening the door to sharing our faith and introducing them to Jesus.
You’re probably familiar with the famous Teddy Roosevelt quote, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” So when we think of that in light of our neighbors and our friends, we have to understand that they’re going to be more apt to want to hear what we know about Jesus when they know that we care about them. And I think all the seven tenets of hygge can help each one of us do just that. When we build relationships with someone, it opens the door for us to introduce them to a relationship with Christ. And I have seen that over and over again with hygge.
Christin Thieme: You’ve mentioned the seven tenets of hygge. Can you give us just a rundown of what those are?
Jamie Erickson: Yeah. I’ll see if I can rapid fire them at you. The first is hospitality, and that really is a central route to hygge. It always starts with that. So hospitality, relationships, wellbeing, and that’s a twofold thing, your own personal wellbeing and then the wellbeing of others, atmosphere, comfort, contentment and rest. And I would say that each one of us is probably going to lean harder into one more naturally than the others, and we’re probably going to struggle more with one more than the others. I know for me contentment, and perhaps it’s because I live in a place that it can get as cold as -40 degrees here in Minnesota. And I really struggle with contentment around January.
Christin Thieme: Understandably.
Jamie Erickson: Yeah. But I’m a work in progress, as we all are. And hygge has really helped me embrace even -40 degrees.
Christin Thieme: Oh my goodness. So with those tenants in mind, can you give us a few easy changes that you would, say, fall into all of them, one of them, just a few things that we can help to paint a picture of how we can start to practice this holy hygge in our own homes?
Jamie Erickson: Well, I think if we start at the top, hospitality, it’s simple. Just be willing to open the doors to others. And it doesn’t necessarily always have to be a physical door. If you live in an apartment with friends and you have a bunch of roommates, it might not always be practical or easy for you to open your door, but hospitality is just love in action. So one of my favorite things to do is to keep a running list on my phone of my friends’ and neighbors’ and family’s favorite drink specialty, a hot drink or a fun drink. And whenever I hear that something great happened in their life or they’ve had a really hard day or something has happened that you either need to cheer or maybe jeer or maybe cry with them, I just run and grab that drink and deliver it to their door. It doesn’t require me to open mine, but it’s a way that I can show love in the form of action, in the form of a verb, for less than $5 or at least right around $5. So hospitality I think is an easy inroad to hygge.
Relationships, I think that there are really three different forms of relationships that we need to focus our attention on. And I think you see that over and over in Scripture and in the life of Christ. And that is relationships that are encouraging. Those are your friends, the people that you are encouraged by and that you can encourage. I think there’s discipleship relationships. I think we all need to be reaching across the aisle from us and help disciple other brothers and sisters in the Lord, spur them on. And then there’s evangelism relationships. And those are the people that maybe don’t have a knowledge or a faith in Christ that we can bring into our circle and welcome them so that they can be welcomed by him.
Let’s see. Next would come wellbeing. Twenty-first century living is really messy and very polarizing, and there are a lot of causes that would want to demand and even require our attention. And I don’t know about you, but as a Christian woman who cares about a lot of things, I know that I cannot give the same amount of care to everything. I might think that is a worthy cause, but if I am going a mile wide but only an inch deep with my care and concern, I’m really not going to get much traction on any of it. So I think when you look at your own giftings, your own passions, for lack of a better way to say it, the capital, relational capital, social capital, economic capital, that God has given you, and you look at all these things and you align all of those things with one cause and you do it really well. I think if we’re all leaning into the causes that God has put right in front of us, we’ll see the needle moved for kingdom purposes really well. And I think you see that modeled in Scripture. I share about that in the book about how we can’t always chase after and care about every cause equally. And that’s really hard in our 21st century lives, where it seems like there are a lot of fires to put out in our world.
Atmosphere, if you look at my resume, you’ll see that I am not an interior designer. And I think that hygge doesn’t require you to be the next Joanna Gaines. I think it just requires you to decorate with meaning. Keep what is valuable to you. Decorate with your people in mind. And sometimes that means making a really beautiful, nurturing space, but I think we can get so consumed by making our spaces Pinterest-worthy, that people don’t actually feel welcome in them. They feel like they have to sanitize their whole lives just to enter our doors. So I think the biggest, most important point to make when you’re thinking about creating a hygge atmosphere is creating one that is not just pretty but it’s really purposeful.
Christin Thieme: Hm. Yeah.
Jamie Erickson: The next would be, I’m trying to go down the list here, comfort. I think in the realm of comfort, sometimes it’s hard to comfort others when we are in the midst of deep grief ourselves or something that’s really scarring or jarring. But I think that one of the easiest ways to come to a place of comfort ourselves is to comfort others because it is really hard to be self-focused about our own issues when we look to the issues of others. When we are carrying someone else’s weight for them, our weight feels a lot lighter, I think. So when you’re thinking about hygge comfort, I think we have to remember that our scars are our authority, what God has put in our own lives, the burdens that we have born in our own lives, the hurts that we have carried the scars, the wounds. Those are our authority to one day, maybe not today, maybe not right now… Maybe we’re still in the midst of healing, and we don’t want to speak from a place of a scar. Or we don’t want to speak from a place of a wound. We do want to speak from a place of a scar. But it might take a while for that scar to heal. So I think when you think about all your past wounds, just remember that those are your authority to one day speak into the lives of somebody who’s walking that same road.
Christin Thieme: Yeah, absolutely.
Jamie Erickson: And then contentment, and I’m going to try to be fast. Contentment, like I said, is really hard for me to shake hands with a lot of days. That’s the one I probably struggle with the most. But I think the Danes have a great saying that really helps. It really helps me to bring my focus back on the main thing. And it goes like this: There is no bad weather, only bad clothing. And so practically speaking, when you’re out in -40 degrees and you’re only wearing a T-shirt and flip flops, of course you’re going to feel uncomfortable. But if you remember to dress in your wool socks and in all the right clothing, you’re going to be able to go out and enjoy what God has put right in front of you. But I think spiritually and emotionally speaking, I think it reminds me of the verses in Scripture about putting off and putting on. I put off that old way of complaining about not being content with what God has given me and know that I can put on a grateful heart, a thankful heart. It’s probably the one I struggle with most.
And then I think with rest, I think our American lives were really quick to define what rest looks like. And we put a lot of disclaimers and a lot of legalistic rules onto what rest looks like. I think we’re called to rest, but that’s going to look differently in each one of our lives. And so I think when Christ says that his yoke is easy and is burden is light, I think part of that is being able to just give that all to him and resting in the work that he can do in our lives. I think a lot of times, especially as women, we think our faith is all about doing something good for Christ, but our faith is not about what we can do. It’s about what has already been done. And we can just rest in that and to know that even if the to-do list doesn’t get done, that’s okay because God asks us to rest. And we can be obedient in that.
Christin Thieme: Yeah. That’s an important distinction. Wow. Thank you. That was so many good things to reflect on for each of those different elements. And I know there’s a lot more about each of them in the book. Given all that, there are these different tenets, so many things to consider in living with this holy hygge, what do you hope that reader ultimately takes away from the book?
Jamie Erickson: I hope it will really be an exhortation for women to see their homes as a backdrop for kingdom building. I hope it’ll give them hopefully some tangible tools to nurture that garden-like home that we’re all craving and longing for, one that reflects the one who spirit is making a home in them. I think as believers, we have to remember that God welcomes us into his work. He doesn’t really need us, but he welcomes us to partner with him in it. He invites us to invite others. I don’t think hygge is necessary, but I’ve seen in my own life that it really helps.
Christin Thieme: So what’s the one thing that we could do today to get started? You’ve given us so many good ideas, and there’s so many more in the book. Definitely pick up the book and read that for lots of ideas. What would be your one thing, as we close out here, for how somebody listening could get started with this idea today?
Jamie Erickson: A really simple practical tip is create a short menu that you know is a no-brainer, no fuss, easy to make thing that is a crowd pleaser. And always have those items stocked in your freezer or in your pantry so that you can give an easy yes invitation at any time because it’s a meal that you can just replicate with ease. You don’t have to fuss over it. It’s always at the ready. Pretty much anytime I invite someone over, my kids know without a doubt we’re having chicken alfredo because I know how to cook it up in moments, and it’s a crowd pleaser. It feeds a big bunch of people, but then I don’t have to feel the pressure of, oh, what am I going to cook on top of feeling like, oh, I want to have my house clean or whatever. It can be an easy way to give a yes to hospitable living.
Christin Thieme: I love it. Well, Jamie, thank you so much. This has been so fun and so encouraging. And what better time as we look toward the New Year to create a place for people right inside our homes. So thank you so much for all of what you’ve shared with us today.
Jamie Erickson: It’s been delightful. Thank you for having me.
- Read “Holy Hygge: Creating A Place For People To Gather And The Gospel To Grow” (Moody Publishers, 2022) by Jamie Erickson.
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