Time to find your hygge. Pronounced “hoo-guh”, this Danish aesthetic is defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” There is no direct translation in English, though “cozy” comes close, and it derives from a sixteenth-century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning “to comfort” or “to console,” which is related to the English word “hug.” Hygge can be used as a noun, adjective, verb, or compound noun, like hyggebukser, otherwise known as that ratty pair of pants you would never wear in public but secretly treasure (and now wear every day). Danish doctors prescribe “tea and hygge” as a cure for the common cold.
Associated with relaxation, indulgence, and gratitude, hygge has long been considered a part of the Danish national character. But where can we find it here at home? It’s closer than you might think. Experience it in a bakery, in the dry heat of a sauna, in the warm glow of candles, in the comfort of nubby woolens and shearling slippers, in the charm of woven textiles and the softness of sheepskin rugs.
Wholesome and nourishing, like porridge, the true expression of hygge is joining with loved ones in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere. Picture a cold Sunday afternoon spent with friends in a woodsy cabin. After a hike in the snow, you and your crew sit around the fireplace wearing sweaters and woolen socks, listen to the crackle of the fire, and enjoy mulled wine. That’s hygge.
But do not give up! It is possible to hygge alone, wrapped in a flannel blanket with a cup of tea, curled up in a comfy chair with a favourite book.
It’s easy to create hygge at home. Here are some of the essential ingredients.
Candles. If you ask a Danish person, they’re likely to tell you that candles are the most important part of creating a hyggelig atmosphere at home. Danes burn a whopping 13 pounds of candle wax a year per capita according to Wiking—more than any other country in the world. So turn off that unflattering overhead lamp and light some candles.
Fireplaces. What could be cozier than stoking a warm fire and enjoying an evening in?
Throw blankets. Whether you fancy a chunky knit, weighted blanket or heated throw, having something soft to wrap around yourself is a must. As are oversized sweaters and thick socks (really, anything knitted), which also make things way more hygge.
Homemade sweets, comfort food, and hot drinks. You don’t have to spend tons of money on an expensive meal. It’s more about comfort and familiarity. in Denmark that might mean pastries, meatballs, and lots of coffee, but in Canada you might want to pour yourself a hot chocolate with Bailey’s, dig up your grandma’s spaghetti casserole recipe or spend a weekend afternoon baking your favorite chocolate chip cookies
What isn’t hygge
Staring at your phone all day. Sorry, this is the least hygge thing to do. TV is okay—but why not invite your friends over to watch with you? Togetherness is another key part of being hygge.
Hibernating indoors alone all winter. Again, while staying inside enjoying hot chocolate and a book is certainly hygge, getting outside to go for a long walk (yes, even in the winter) and spending time with family (in your household only, please) is also a crucial part of the idea.
Strict rules. In this era of tidiness and an aversion to clutter, Hygge provides a friendly and more forgiving lifestyle. It’s all about keeping things simple while encouraging us to live a little and say yes to that extra slice of cake.
If you want to be truly hygge, just remember to appreciate the small things that bring joy to your life. Instead of complaining about the horrible weather we’re no doubt going to experience over the next few months, light some candles and hunker down with a cup of tea and that novel you’ve been meaning to read for months. Or if you’re feeling more social, cook up a pot of your favourite chili and zoom with your besties over for a board game night. Keep calm and hygge on!