The Concept of Hygge

In 2017, the Oxford dictionary added the word ‘hygge’ to its dictionary leading many to wonder what it truly meant. But Hygge isn’t truly a word so much as it is a feeling or concept. Hygge (pronounced hue-geh or hoo-gah) is a word in Danish spoken in the very small Scandinavian country of Danmark (Denmark). Google will tell you the literal translation of the word hygge is “fun,” though it is closer to “coziness.” But in Danmark, the meaning is much more than that; it is used as an expression, not an actual word. Many Danes find it difficult to articulate the true meaning of hygge as it is something very internally integrated into Danish culture.

Why is it an important part of Danish culture
Many Danes will give you slightly different answers to this question as there is no direct translation to English. But, the closest description is the feeling of comfort and homeliness and the feeling of a break from the busyness of life to surround yourself with the people and things that make you calm and happy. Like most of Europe, Danmark is dark and cold for a substantial portion of the year leaving you with few choices of activity, most of which involve being inside with those close to you. As well as representing a crucial part of Danish culture, hygge equality, and the well-being of all. Due to this close-knit nature of the phenomenon, it can be intimidating to foreigners but in fact, hygge is for all, and no matter how intense the Danes come off, they are in fact very willing and happy to welcome you in.

According to the word itself dates back to the 1800s in its current definition. Various other definitions of the word date back to the middle ages and a similar Old Norse word meaning “protected from the outside world.” This is a very fitting way to describe part of the current definition of the word.

Capitalizing on Hygge
The phenomenon of hygge was quickly capitalized on by companies and designers. Creating everything from inspirational posters and board games to cozy blankets and candles. Additionally, it has become a large portion of the tourism industry in Danmark with many foreigners coming to the small country to find and experience hygge.

How to Feel Hyggely in All Seasons
Garden parties with lots of flowers
Getting a coffee with friends at a cafe
Trips up the coast
Picnic in the park with close friends
Street festivals
Bike rides
Summer barbeque
Old-fashioned apple cake
Heavy jumpers
Letting Danish hospitality increase your number of dinner invitations preparing you for the peak of hygge in the winter
Winter: Definitely needed in the winter when Danmark is very dark and cold
Warm drinks
A book by a nice fireplace
Christmas (if you celebrate) where in Danmark hygge is at its maximum

But there is no wrong way to feel hygge. To me and my very special Danish family, the true meaning of hygge simply means home, comfort, and surrounding yourself with joy and love, whatever that may mean to you and your family.