I first heard of the Danish concept hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) four years ago, and I was thrilled to put a name to the aesthetic that I had been creating in my own home since I first had a home.
Hygge does not have a direct English translation; “cozy conviviality” is close, but it is more than that. Hygge is like wrapping yourself in your favorite soft blanket on a snowy winter’s night, the warmth of a mug of hot chocolate in your hands. Hygge is that deeply felt sense of gratitude that arises in your heart when you suddenly notice that all is well and that you are happy and having a good time. Hygge is that feeling that commercials try to evoke during the holidays, of loving families enjoying the moment together, surrounded by aesthetic and comfortable things. Hygge is part of Danish culture, and, because they have given it a name, it is something they can consciously create.
In Denmark, all sorts of things can be hygge, like a sweater, a dinner party, and eating cake at a coffee shop. Riding your bike can be hygge. Watching a movie with your sweetheart snuggled under a shared blanket can definitely be hygge. Singing around a campfire can be hygge. And reading a book in your pajamas can be hygge.
Hygge is associated with winter, which can be harsh in Scandinavia, and with all the things that make winter wonderful, like hot drinks, fairy lights, fireplaces, family and friends, sweet treats, warm sweaters, thick socks, blankets, and candles. The more snow falling outside, the more hygge it is inside.
Hygge is also closely associated with spending time with good friends, especially in small intimate gatherings. Big stressful fancy parties are less the hygge aesthetic than casual get-togethers of people with whom you feel comfortable and laugh easily.
I only heard about hygge in January of 2015, but it is the feeling that I have always been trying to create in our home– a sanctuary, a place of warmth, comfort, safety, and happiness. A place designed to create sweet memories.
Hygge is a concept that we bring to our lives by imbuing moments with meaning. A candle could just be a utilitarian object that brings light to the dark, or it can be a romantic light source that casts a warm magical glow. Hygge imbues the plain and mundane with magic and sacredness. It is a feeling you bring from your heart to your daily life to make that life more beautiful and special.