A Hygge Christmas
Everyone deserves to experience ‘hygge’ this Christmas
Warming yourself by a fire on a cold winter’s night, whilst sipping on a hot chocolate and stroking your dog or cat, under the glow of candlelight – that’s the Danish concept of hygge (‘hoo-ga’) which has been so in vogue recently.
The word itself is often translated to ‘cosiness’ in English but it is meant to describe a feeling, of warmth, happiness and wellbeing, so there’s no wonder the concept has caught on so well in Britain and elsewhere. Hygge could also be sitting by the fireside with others, eating a warm pastry or a family get together at Christmas, a lovely image.
But even as Nordic jumpers have become all the fashion and sales of scented candles are going through the roof this Christmas, the contrast for people in fuel poverty couldn’t be any more stark.
The candles that we buy for ambience are often used by families desperate to try and keep warm. In the film ‘I, Daniel Blake’ tea lights are used to fashion a small homemade heater for the children. The jumpers we wear could be the difference between life and death for someone living in a cold home, who has respiratory or cardiac health problems. A get together could be difficult for an older person – whose friends or family members may be put off because of their cold home.
A tragic image, and something that’s uncomfortable to think about with Christmas around the corner which is a time for happiness and celebration, but over four million people are having to go through this this winter. With no adequate heating, or having to choose between heating and eating, Britain’s fuel poor are struggling and we need to take action to help.
Whilst there are long cold winters in Denmark (with up to 17 hours of darkness a day) and the temperatures are usually around the 0 degrees zone, the housing stock there is so much better than ours and so is the heating system. In a nutshell Denmark’s homes are heavily insulated and built for the bitter winters. Denmark also relies on district heating systems, essentially a large shared boiler that heats many houses at a time. It uses the surplus or ‘waste’ energy produced by factories and farms etc so energy prices are lower. It’s something that the Government is now encouraging in the UK.
Currently however about four million people in fuel poverty across Britain are suffering and for them the end is not in sight, in fact it is a whole lifetime away, estimated at 80 years.
A recent University College London study showed that although last winter was not the coldest on record, people still died due to the cold. The study found that people dying from cold homes are a result of high fuel prices, low incomes and poor insulation.
So what is the solution? Part of the answer lies in increasing investment in domestic energy efficiency. We need to follow the example of other developed countries, such as Denmark, and be driving massive permanent reduction in total energy demand across the UK. Because everyone deserves to be warm over winter, to live free of illness-inducing damp and mould, and to experience ‘hygge’ for themselves.
For more information on our Warm Homes Campaign click here.
By Sahdia Hassen