Pronounced HUE-geh, this Danish word does not translate to English, although you can get close with the word “cosy” but not quite close enough to get the full meaning.
There are dozens of definitions out there especially since Hygge became a global craze and all sorts of experts and commentators appeared with their own twist on what Hygge is. The most common definition for this unique word is something along the lines of: “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being”.
In short, enjoying life’s simple pleasures such as friends, family, and nature while recognising something special in the moment.
I had never heard the word before 2016 and I suspect that’s true for most non-Nordic people. Yet that year Collins English Dictionary names Hygge the runner up for word of the year (after Brexit) and a plethora of books hit the shelves exclaiming the simple pleasures we were all missing.
Where did this excitement with an unpronounceable, difficult to articulate concept come from? Well, Denmark obviously. But why now? And how has it become so widespread and popular so quickly? Back in 1957 Hygge was mentioned by Robert Shaplin in a ‘Letter from Copenhagen’ for The New Yorker so the idea has crossed borders before and in Denmark Hygge it seems to be a cornerstone of society. And the appeal of Scandinavian cosiness is nothing new but this time, with the internet and social media, the initial spark of interest in Hygge went viral and spread like a wild fire (wild fires are very un-Hygge).
Hygge is back-to-basics-enjoy-life-and-get-the-most-out-of-this-moment and its popularity is proof that respite to the hustle and bustle of modern life is sorely needed (and that yoga, meditation, Pilates, and chocolate is not enough). The insincere relationships, wasteful consumerism and relentless drive to be better is a fact of many lives in the 21st century and the ideals contained within Hygge hit a collective nerve with people who realise a lack of authenticity and are yearning to connect with the more fundamental fulfilment that life offers. If it means something more to any of our readers, we'd love to know.
A whole array of Hygge products have hit the market, capitalising on its unexpected popularity. At the end of 2016 whenever I walked into a book shop I wouldn’t make it past the first few steps without seeing titles such as The Little Book of Hygge, Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well or non-Hygge books that convey Hygge images such as Cabin Porn. There is a real desire to enjoy the simple things in life and apparently, we are so distant from this that we need books and blog posts (sorry) to do it.
Winter is the most Hygge season. Arguably, the reason Hygge and similar concepts (such as the Swedish Koselig) have made it into the Scandinavian lexicon is because the climate demands that people spend a lot of time indoors in the dark and cold months. Enjoying your home, in all its simple splendour, and relishing the loved-ones around you becomes a natural way to see you through those grim winter days. Some Hygge classics include: candles galore, comfy woollens, shearling slippers, a rustic wood fire, pastries and a warm cup of coffee to wrap cold hands around, cashmere socks, sheepskin rugs and calming music.
A lot of it is atmosphere and you can and should Hygge with loved ones, but you can just as easily Hygge alone in a chunky knit blanket (we recommend Saint Wools for that). It is worth remembering that Hygge does not require the dozens of objects that exemplify it and to give some focus to the mental and philosophical underpinnings of the concept.
Take the time to appreciate the practical things, be gracious for what you have, nurture your health and sprit with time outside every day and don’t log into your inbox or worries but rather share a laugh with your friends and family for a more Hyggelig life!
Enjoy your moments of Hygge.
Ramzi writes about home décor, design and much more. He wants to share interesting things from around the world.
Lana is the creative energy behind Saint Wools. She writes about her love of wool and passion for making the best chunky knit pieces.