What does the Danish word hygge mean?
The age-old Danish notion of “hygge” (pronounced hoo-ga) – a feeling of warmth brought on by safe, cozy surroundings – is once again in the news and people the world over are wondering how to get more of it in their lives.
Why is hygge getting so much hype? The Danes would say it’s because we’re entering “peak hygge season” (yes, that’s a thing), but the Brits say hygge is a myth, and point out that there have been no less than nine books published this year that focus on the philosophy.
So, which is it?
First references to hygge can be traced back to Old Norse language and culture, when it was described as “… the experience of comfort and joy, especially in one’s home and family …,” and it means much the same thing today.
So, as to whether it’s a myth, the answer is no – it’s very real. But, as Britons are so sardonically eager to point out, it could be seen that the Danes are keen on exporting the concept much like they do Lego toys or Pandora jewelry.
So, we have the meaning – that warm, snuggly feeling we get when we’re surrounded by the people and things we love – but how do we get more of it in our homes? The Danes make it sound pretty easy, which is half the point, because being difficult is very un-hygge.
Friends & Family: Though Danes are quick to note that hygge can be enjoyed alone, and indeed sometimes requires solitude, friends and family are also a big part of the philosophy.
Candles: A hygge staple by any measure, and the more candles the hygge-ier. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Danes are said to have a minimum candle number to achieve optimum hygge (it’s five), but it’s really whatever makes you feel coziest.
Blankets: The snuggle factor is huge in hygge. Throws, quilts, afghans, comforters – there are no rules as to what style comforts you most.
Pets: We know from research as well as experience that our pets bring us much joy and comfort, but if you’re not convinced the Danes will assure you that your pet is hygge heaven.
Food & Drink: Comfort food and drink is also high on the hygge list. This is a matter of taste, of course, but something with melted cheese or chocolate (or both) seems most appropriate …
Fireplaces: A warm fire brings about our most primal feelings of safety and community, so it’s no mystery why we feel hygge when we’re curled up in front of one.
Peace: This may be what sums up hygge best of all. Denmark’s leading hygge expert, anthropologist Jeppe Trolle Linnet, notes that none of the above would give us a cozy feeling without the absence of conflict; that peace is hygge’s true foundation.
Here’s hoping you find a little hygge today, and every day.