Deck the Halls at the Oshkosh Public Museum

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It’s hard to believe that the holiday season is almost upon us. This year the Museum’s Christmas Village exhibit on second floor, a featured attraction of the annual Deck the Halls holiday exhibit, will showcase a new trend that has become increasingly recognizable around the world but was borrowed from a Danish concept: hygge.

Pronounced “hue-guh,” it sounds a bit like a football cheer. Hygge actually stands for the feeling of happiness, contentment and togetherness with a touch of nostalgia. Certainly, a sentiment that lends itself to the Christmas holiday season.

If the word sounds new to you, you are not alone. According to Curator Debra Daubert, she had heard the term before, but when the theme was suggested for the Christmas exhibit, she admitted to going back to her office to do more research on hygge. “It was not just that I wanted to find out more about it,” Daubert said, “but I was also searching for clues on how the Museum could create an exhibit around this concept. What I found was fascinating.”

Although most people consider hygge to be a Danish word, it is also derived from a Norwegian concept with the same meaning. In fact, although the exact origin of the word is not known, many scholars think hygge came from an Old Norse word “hugr” which in the 1560s meant “to embrace.” It first appeared in Danish writing in the nineteenth century and evolved by the late twentieth century into a Danish cultural ideal.

The embracement of hygge was a great way to combat the short days of sunlight during the winter months in Scandinavian countries. The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living written by Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute (yes, there really is such a place) in Copenhagen is an inspirational easy read recommended to everyone. It might just change your life, and maybe help you rethink how precious moments should be spent.

Since hygge is more a feeling than tangible objects, the Museum decided to showcase scenes of what caused people to experience coziness and happiness. The ambiance of lighting several sweet-smelling candles is hygge. Baking cookies and sharing them with a cup of hot chocolate among friends, playing a board game or even going outside to build a snowman as a family is very hygge. “My favorite of all,” says Daubert, “is sitting in front of the fireplace with a roaring fire and a good Agatha Christie mystery. Well, maybe while sipping a soothing cup of Matcha tea, too.”

However, visitors will not just find the hygge theme inside the Christmas Village exhibit cases; hygge will literally be filling the Museum. Since the concept of hygge is really very much like a good old-fashioned Christmas that many of us yearn for, even the decorations throughout the historic Sawyer home will be driven by the homemade aspect. Comfy places to spend a quiet moment with a classic holiday book (it’s especially hygge if you read out loud to someone sitting on your lap), and activities such as a jigsaw puzzle or making your own ornament to enjoy alone or with others will add to the relaxed atmosphere.

On Thursday, November 29, the Oshkosh Public Museum Auxiliary is hosting their Annual Gala from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Attendees can experience the Museum set aglow with a nostalgic display of holiday décor while enjoying an incredible array of savory hors d’oeuvres and decadent desserts. Admission is $15 to support the Oshkosh Public Museum. The evening will also include a cash bar and cash-and-carry basket raffle and silent auction. The public is welcome.

These are just a few of the surprises visitors can expect to run across when visiting the Oshkosh Public Museum during Deck the Halls, on display November 17 through December 30. So come to learn about hygge and stay to savor the experience!

The Oshkosh Public Museum is located at 1331 Algoma Boulevard. Regular hours are Tuesday–Saturday from 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1–4:30 p.m., however the Museum will be closed on November 22, December 24 and December 25. General admission is: Adults $8, Seniors (62+) $6, College Students $6, and Children (age 6-17) $4. Admission is free for Museum Members and children under age six. For more information about the Museum’s exciting events and exhibits, call 920.236.5799, email museum@ci.oshkosh.wi.us, or visit oshkoshmuseum.org.

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Karla Szekeres Oshkosh Public Museum Civic Contributor

The Oshkosh Public Museum is a non-profit regional history museum entrusted with the care of more than 300,000 historical photographs, documents, and artifacts that represent the history, culture and heritage of the region. Housed in the historic Sawyer home since 1924, the Oshkosh Public Museum is an amazing resource for research and discovery of Oshkosh and the Lake Winnebago region. Situated just off the Fox River near historic downtown Oshkosh, the Museum’s mission is to preserve the area’s colorful legacy, and to bring history to life through innovative exhibitions and educational programs that will both inspire and entertain guests of all ages and interests.

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