What's Hygge?

December 2013 - by Alexandra Gove

Denmark's national treasure, hygge, is commonly defined as cozy in the English language... fireplaces, snuggly blankets and cups of hot cocoa are the first things to come to mind. These wintry things are very hygge, but did you know that hygge should also trigger thoughts of campfires, picnic blankets and beer? Hygge cannot be captured by just one word from the English language, or one season for that matter; there is much more to this Danish phenomenon... 


Hygge is the euphoric feeling when you are completely content in the present moment... when you can’t help but smile and let out a happy sigh. Loved ones, good food and drinks are likely contributors, as are candlelight and music. It's the art of creating special moments out of daily routines and rituals, whether its lighting a candle before you curl up in your reading nook, buying fresh flowers at the market every week, posting handwritten invitations for your backyard summer party, or breaking out the good wine when your friends are over for dinner. It's owning things you truly love and choosing authenticity over practicality. Hygge is about realizing the opportunity we all have to make the ordinary aspects of our lives extraordinary; to add that extra sparkle to moments, big or small. 


Despite the lack of sunshine in the Nordics during the wintry months, Scandinavian people are rated the happiest in the world, again and again. For the Danish, hygge makes the winters bearable… even enjoyable. The thought of snuggling up by a fireplace with a loved one, or sharing a warm meal in a candlelit cafe, keeps the positivity alive on dark, cold, wintry days. 

Some other European countries have words with a similar meaning, the Dutch call it gezellig, the Swedes: gemytlig, and the Germans gemutlich. After living in the Netherlands and traveling to Denmark, I realized that coziness doesn’t quite grasp what hygge and gezellig mean to their respective cultures. Why doesn’t the English language have a sufficient word to describe this universal feeling? 


I know its not because we don't have hygge moments, but if we had an equivalent word to describe this cozy feeling, we might realize, appreciate and create these moments even more! I have adopted hygge into my own vocabulary and I urge you to do the same.

Vintage French linensRichard Brendon: Reflect tea-cup



Homemade scones


For example, have your friend over for tea, use your favorite china & linens, and surprise him/her with homemade scones. Then, do her a favor and explain hygge; she will appreciate the special moment even more and will recreate it with others in her own unique way. Many more examples, like this one, to come on the blog. Follow hygge life on  Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter for more inspiration.  


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