A recent “On Faith” devoted to “hygge” received overwhelming — and ongoing — enthusiasm. The Danish concept emphasizes slowing down, paying attention and appreciation.
Admittedly, I was first drawn to the concept because I delighted in exclaiming “hoo-guh.” However, I quickly learned hygge is as a wonderful reminder to create joy in all places, moments and spaces, such as a worship service, home decor or lunch with friends.
Some who contacted me recently to talk hygge are of Danish descent. Others simply find it appealing to focus on creating a mindset that incorporates coziness, happiness and comfort.
If you’re captivated by hygge, you also may appreciate “fika.” In fact, you may already have designated fika time.
In the Swedish language, fika, (pronounced “fee-kah”), is a noun and verb that captures and describes the appeal, lure and mystique of the coffee break. The rough translation is “to have coffee.”
Sweden is a nation rather obsessed with coffee, and that’s no stereotype. If Danes consciously cultivate contentment, Swedes intentionally and proudly create coffee culture and elevate it to an art form. The nation is No. 3 in the world in terms of coffee consumption. (Finland, which also fikas, is No. 1. The Netherlands takes second place.)
Sure, Scandinavians clearly wake up craving that first cup of joe. But fika doesn’t mean Swedes just really like coffee, according to “Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break” by Anna Brones.
Fika focuses on setting aside time of day and assembling the elements — coffee, baked goods, great company and blissfully uninterrupted moments — and then lingering.
It’s no easy thing to take a deliberate break. You’re not fika-ing if you grab a cuppa and hunker down at your desk. Nor is fika “alone time.”
Instead, the key is social interaction. No matter how packed your schedule, fika is a sacrosanct excuse to take time and catch up with friends, coworkers and family, writes Brones.
Friends schedule a weekly fika as an excuse to get together, eat chocolate cake and catch up. Likewise, breakrooms are typically labeled specifically for fika-ing. At many of Sweden’s workplaces, fika is a sacred late morning or early afternoon activity.
In U.S. houses of worship, it’s possible the time designated for chatting, coffee and baked goods was influenced by this practice of Swedish and Finnish immigrants.
Swedes aren’t necessarily among the world’s coffee elitists, Brones writes. Sure, Sweden has embraced specialty coffee beverages like cappuccino and lattes, but many still opt for strong, black drip brew — the stuff I’ve heard called “Swedish plasma.”
That said, the food can be a big deal. There seem to be a lot of opinions about fika foods, with the imperative being snacks must be present. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, recipes are a prominent feature of the majority of English-language books on fika.
I have the impression some suspend calorie-counting during fika; you grab that kanelbulle (a Swedish cinnamon roll) and throw caution to the wind. Others opt for fruit, open-faced sandwiches or other treats.