Winter isn’t my favorite season. I may ski, drink vin chaud and wear the heck out of a shearling jacket, but I’m a California girl at heart. Since moving to Switzerland I’ve tried to change my perspective, because winter is truly something to behold here. Writing this article last year helped me look forward to the coldest time of year, so I’m re-running it today.
The sun sets before four in the afternoon and the temperatures rarely surge above freezing, and yet winter is Denmark’s favorite season thanks to the Danes’ belief in “hygge.”
Pronounced “hyOO-guh,” the word loosely translates to the mental state of coziness. Hygge is the idea that winter is to be savored, not simply survived. Danes even say “hyggeligt” which means “it’s cozy to meet you.”
Some Danish scholars write that hygge promotes feelings of thankfulness and gratitude—not totally unlike America’s Thanksgiving. But considering that Denmark ranks as the happiest nation on Columbia University’s World Happiness Report, the United States could learn a thing or two from Hamlet’s people.
Although hygge is a mental state, Danes use props to cultivate hygge at home.
Lighting. Low, warm lighting is especially key to making the dark days feel magical. Danes use candles in their homes, cafes, even offices to promote the “hyggelige glow.”
Dining. A Danish family will linger for hours around a warm meal and often warm, alcoholic drinks in celebrating hygge. (See my hot toddy recipe).
Comfort. Younger Danes have added snuggling under blankets on the sofa and watching movies to hygge traditions—something I already do quite well. Preserve hygge by eschewing cell phones to connect over intimate conversation.
A little hygge for your home:
I hope you’re feeling hygge somewhere today…but for now, a few links:
- America’s Best Cities for Winter Travel (Travel + Leisure)
- Nine Hot Drinks for Winter (Real Simple)
- Winterizing Your Interiors (Elements of Style)