What is hygge and how do I get in on it?

couple cuddling

The Danish concept of hygge is seemingly everywhere these days. It was a contender for the Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year for 2016, it’s been examined by publications such as the New York Times, Bon Appetit, Time and BBC News, and it’s a consistently trending hashtag on social media. If you’ve been wondering what it’s all about, we have some answers.

What is it? By all accounts, it’s a non-specific, catchall phrase for all things cozy. It encompasses a feeling of contentment through the simple things in life, like curling up under a blanket with a book on a rainy day or drinking hot cocoa in front of a fireplace when it’s snowing outside. It’s a key part of Danish culture, much like how freedom is part of the national DNA to Americans. Winters in Denmark are long and harsh, with up to 17 hours of darkness per day, so residents put a strong focus on making the home as comfortable and inviting as possible. Hygge can describe an experience, a meal or even home decor.

How do you pronounce it? It’s most commonly pronounced as “hoo-gah.” It’s derived from the Norwegian term for “well-being” and can be used as both a noun, adjective and verb.

Why is it trending now? It’s been part of the Danish culture since the early 1800s, when the word first appeared in the written language. In 2016 it caught on as a lifestyle trend in the United Kingdom after several books were written on it, and now it’s the Americans’ turn to obsess over the concept. Activity on Pinterest about hygge increased more than 280 percent in 2016, and more than 1.5 million posts on Instagram use the #hygge hashtag.

What can the term be applied to? Practically anything. For example, the Danish term “hyggebukser” refers to a comfortable pair of pants you’d never wear in public, but wear constantly around the house in the evenings and on weekends. Candles and fireplaces are key elements to hygge, as well as anything knitted (socks, throw blankets, oversized sweaters), Togetherness is also a key element. An example of a hygge scenario would be a group of friends playing board games with blankets over their knees, drinking mulled wine, and eating comfort food in front of a fire while snow falls outside.

Is it just a wintertime thing? Not at all! While that’s the most obvious time to practice hygge (the Christmas season in particular), you can do hygge things all year round, even during summer. Some examples include eating a dish of homemade ice cream in the shade of a tree, taking a nap in a hammock, curling up on a daybed or couch with a glass of lemonade while the air conditioning blasts, and eating a meal with your loved ones outdoors with ingredients grown in a home garden.

How can I get in on it? Appreciate the simple stuff in life and be mindful of the moments that make you happy. Take pleasure in gentle, soothing things and the company of friends and family. Turn off your cell phone, be present, treat yourself to something you enjoy and share it with others, be grateful for everything you have, be humble and don’t engage in drama, get comfortable and create a safe, cozy haven.


The Year of Hygge: The Danish Obsession With Getting Cozy [The New Yorker]

Wintering the Danish Way: Learning About Hygge [New York Times]

Hygge: A Heart-Warming Lesson From Denmark [BBC News]

  • May 17th, 2017
  • Posted in: Avalon