As someone who has been spending ten Christmas in the Scandinavian region and of course, still counting, I have come to fall in love with their way of celebrating the holiday season.
The Norwegian & Danish concept of hygge has become a big part of my life, and it never fails to bring warmth and joy during this time of year.
But you know what? The small thing that keeps bugging me years over years is how wrongfully people pronounce this word. Don’t worry, I got you covered with that today!
What is Hygge?
Hygge is definitely not pronounced “hoo-gah”. Instead, for non-Danish, non- Norwegian, and non-Swedish speakers, this Danish word should be pronounced as “hue-gah” or “hue-guh.”
The stress should be placed on the first syllable, and the second syllable should have a short sound, almost like the English word “guh.”
Now, let’s get to the meaning. Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word that does not have an exact translation in English. It is often defined as coziness or a feeling of contentment, but it goes beyond just physical comforts.
Personally, I’d say the only reason why people don’t have an actual translation for hygge is that they haven’t experienced it yet. It is more than just a word; it’s a lifestyle, a feeling, and a state of mind.
Hygge encompasses a sense of well-being and appreciation for simple moments in life. It embodies a warm, charming, and cozy lifestyle, especially around the holiday season.
It’s about creating a serene haven in your home and embracing the simple pleasures of life, such as spending time with loved ones, sipping hot cocoa, snuggling up with a book, or enjoying a candlelit dinner.
Key Elements of Hygge
In the “Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking, he outlines the key elements that make up the essence of hygge. Although I may not agressively follow all these aspects, they do sum up what hygge means to me.
Creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere is essential in embracing hygge. This can be achieved through soft lighting, candles, blankets, and warm colors. The goal is to create a space that feels relaxing and comfortable.
Being present in the moment and enjoying the simple things in life is a key component of hygge. This means putting away distractions, such as phones and laptops, and fully immersing yourself in your surroundings.
Quality time with loved ones is vital. You can imagine, cold winter months with almost no day light and the temperature hovering below 0, it is the perfect time to gather around a fire and chat with friends or family.
Comfort plays a significant role in achieving hygge. Whether it’s wearing cozy socks, wrapping yourself in a warm blanket, or indulging in comfort foods, the goal is to feel relaxed and at ease.
In the mindset of many Scandinavian, they believe that the cold, dark winters are something to embrace and enjoy rather than endure. This is where hygge comes into play, as it allows one to find joy and contentment in even the simplest moments.
Having a grateful mindset is an integral part of hygge. Taking the time to appreciate the little things in life, like a cup of tea or a beautiful sunset, can bring joy and contentment.
Again, during cold months, when it’s easy to dwell on the negative, practicing gratitude can help shift focus to the positive aspects of life.
All in all, hygge isn’t about extravagance; it’s finding richness in the unadorned and fostering a sense of contentment and well-being through the simplest acts.
This Christmas, why not invite hygge into your life and discover the art of cozy living? You will find that it’s not about buying expensive gifts or elaborate decorations, but rather about creating a warm and inviting atmosphere for you and your loved ones.
Creating a Cozy Atmosphere
Embrace the essence of hygge by transforming your home into a bastion of warmth and comfort this Christmas season. Here are a few simple ways to achieve a cozy atmosphere:
- Light candles or turn on soft, warm lighting
- Play soft, soothing music
- Decorate with natural elements like pine cones and evergreen branches
- Use warm colors like reds and browns in your decorations
- Display sentimental items that hold special meaning for you
- Keep your space tidy and clutter-free to promote a sense of calmness and relaxation
There is no one definition of a cozy atmosphere, but rather it is about creating a space that makes you feel at ease and content. So, whatever makes you feel cozy and comfortable, incorporate it into your home this Christmas.
Lighting and Warmth
To achieve a snug ambience, the right lighting plays a crucial role. Opt for soft, warm lighting options such as candles or fairy lights to radiate a gentle, inviting glow throughout your space.
A roaring fire or an array of soft-glowing lamps can further enhance the sense of warmth and coziness in your home.
If you don’t have a fireplace, consider investing in an electric or gas one, or simply create the illusion of a fire by placing candles inside a non-working fireplace. It will add a touch of warmth and charm to your living room, making it the perfect spot for sipping hot cocoa and unwinding with loved ones.
Surround yourself with a variety of comfy textiles that invite relaxation. Consider draping plush throws or blankets over your furniture, and swap out regular cushions for ones with softer, more luxurious textures.
A well-placed sheepskin rug or thick, knitted socks, and soft blankets can add an extra touch of comfort and warmth while keeping your feet toasty and your home looking cozy.
Don’t be afraid to mix and match different fabrics, patterns, and textures to create a cozy and inviting atmosphere.
Incorporating natural elements into your decor is another key aspect of a hygge Christmas. Houseplants or vases of evergreen branches bring a touch of the outdoors inside and can improve the air quality.
Wooden accents and pine cones also add to the natural, rustic charm of your cozy retreat. Or, if you’re not a fan of real plants, opt for faux greenery that looks just as beautiful and requires no maintenance.
The smell of freshly baked cookies or a pot of simmering mulled wine can instantly evoke feelings of warmth and comfort.
Incorporate delicious scents into your home by baking holiday treats or simmering fragrant spices on the stove.
Scented candles or essential oils are another great way to add cozy aromas to your space. Scents like vanilla, cinnamon, or pine will definitely help you get into the hygge spirit.
But don’t feel limited to traditional holiday scents – choose scents that bring you joy and comfort, whether it’s the smell of fresh rain or a warm campfire.
From the glow of your Christmas tree to handcrafted ornaments and natural elements, each detail adds to the cozy ambiance.
However, don’t try to overdo it with too much decor. Instead, stick to a few key pieces that bring you joy and make your space feel inviting.
Consider incorporating handmade or sentimental decorations for an extra personal touch. And don’t forget about soft, twinkling lights to add warmth and ambiance to your space.
Go for Real Christmas Tree
Your Christmas tree is the centerpiece of your hygge holiday decor. Begin with a live Christmas tree that fills your space with its natural scent and beauty.
Although many people may think that buying a plastic tree is more environmentally friendly, studies have shown that real trees are actually better for the environment as they can be recycled and decomposed.
In order to produce a plastic Christmas tree, factories release harmful emissions and use up non-renewable resources, while live trees absorb carbon dioxide and provide habitats for wildlife.
Ad, if you’re wondering whether cutting down a living tree is bad for the environment, rest assured that Christmas tree farms plant more trees than they harvest. Plus, buying a live tree supports local businesses and helps preserve green spaces.
Once you have your perfect tree, it’s time to decorate! Choose lights and ornaments that bring you joy and complement your overall theme.
Don’t forget to add some natural elements like pine cones or dried citrus slices for a rustic touch.
Add a touch of charm and nostalgia to your decor with handcrafted ornaments. These can be homemade or purchased from local artists and artisans.
You could create your own using materials like clay, felt, or papier-mâché (well, it’s also written as paper marche, but hey, we just want to be a little bit fancy here) and decorate them with paint, glitter, or ribbons.
This is a great activity to do with friends and family, creating memories while also adding personal touches to your holiday decor., or you could support small businesses by purchasing handmade ornaments that fit your style.
If DIY isn’t your thing, consider supporting small businesses by purchasing handcrafted ornaments from local Christmas market or online platforms like Etsy.
Not only will you have unique and beautiful pieces for your tree, but you’ll also be supporting independent artists and promoting sustainable practices.
Christmas Light Displays
Another fun aspect of holiday decorating is creating beautiful light displays. Soft, warm LED lights will give a cozy glow, inviting family gatherings and quiet evenings by the fireplace.
You could go for a traditional look with classic string lights or get creative with different shapes and colors. You could even add some projection lights for a whimsical touch.
Don’t limit yourself to just your tree! Add lights to your windows, porch, or outdoor trees to spread holiday cheer throughout your neighborhood. Just make sure to use LED lights or energy-efficient options to reduce your energy consumption and save you money.
Wreaths and Garlands
Wreaths and garlands are a classic holiday staple, adding an instant festive touch to any room.
You could purchase pre-made ones or create your own using fresh or artificial greenery, ribbons, berries, pine cones, or even cinnamon sticks for a lovely scent.
Hang them on your front door, mantle, staircase, or even on your windows for a festive and welcoming touch. You could also add mini lights to them for some extra sparkle.
And if you’re feeling adventurous, try creating a unique advent wreath or garland using unconventional materials like feathers, paper flowers, or even candy canes!
Sustainable Gift Wrapping
As we all know, Christmas is not just about decorating our homes, but also about giving gifts to our loved ones. However, traditional gift wrapping can often involve excessive use of paper and plastic that end up in landfills.
To reduce waste and promote sustainability this holiday season, try using eco-friendly gift wrapping options.
Use recycled paper, fabric scraps, or even newspaper to wrap your gifts. You could also reuse old gift bags or boxes and decorate them with ribbons, stamps, or drawings.
Not only do these options help reduce waste, but they also add a unique and personal touch to your gifts. Plus, you’ll be setting a great example for others in your community to follow suit.
Incorporating elements of nature with dried fruit garlands or fresh pine boughs can add a beautiful, rustic appearance to your home.
Place a soft, knitted throw blanket on your furniture for added warmth, put on your fuzzy socks, and use seasonal scented candles to create an inviting atmosphere.
You could also display seasonal fruits, like pomegranates mandarines, in a decorative bowl as a festive centerpiece for your dining table.
Additionally, consider swapping out your regular throw pillows with ones featuring holiday-themed designs and colors to add a cozy and festive touch to your living room.
Embracing hygge during the holidays means creating moments that are intentionally warm and festive. With an emphasis on togetherness, comfort, and pleasure, your holiday traditions can reflect a serene and heartfelt season.
Gift-Giving with Intention
Gift-giving is a cherished tradition that can embody the hygge spirit of thoughtfulness. Take time to choose gifts that hold special meaning for the receiver, focusing more on the joy of giving rather than the value of the gift itself.
Consider handmade items or gifts that promote spending time together, like a board game or a DIY kit. The receivers will appreciate the effort put into selecting a thoughtful and meaningful gift.
Gatherings can also be made more hygge by keeping them casual and intimate. Invite friends and family over for a potluck dinner, where everyone brings a dish to share.
Set an inviting atmosphere with soft lighting, comfortable seating, and festive decorations. Encourage conversation
Advent Calendars and Countdowns
Countdowns to Christmas inject excitement into your daily routine, and advent calendars are a fun way to build anticipation while embodying the hygge ethos.
Fill your calendar with small tokens, like chocolates, quotes, or even activity prompts that encourage you to slow down and savor the season.
Rather than premade options, a DIY advent calendar adds a personal touch to the tradition. Or, you can create an advent calendar with activities instead of gifts. For example:
- Dec 1: Sip a cup of hot cocoa together.
- Dec 2: Write a heartfelt letter to a friend.
- Dec 3: Take a walk through the neighborhood to admire holiday lights.
- Dec 4: Watch your favorite Christmas movie together.
- Dec 5: Bake and decorate cookies as a family.
- Dec 6: Make handmade ornaments.
Embrace Outdoor Activities
While it may be tempting to stay indoors during the colder months, embracing outdoor activities can add an element of adventure and coziness to your holiday season. Go on a winter hike, build a snowman, or have a bonfire and roast marshmallows.
These activities not only promote physical well-being but also allow you to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of the season.
Food and Drink
Embrace the essence of hygge this Christmas by indulging in homemade treats, sipping on comforting warm beverages, and gathering around a table for a hearty holiday feast.
You can also try incorporating traditional Scandinavian dishes, such as gløgg (mulled wine), æbleskiver (Danish fluffy pancakes), and julekake (Norwegian Christmas bread) into your holiday menu.)
Don’t forget to invite friends and family over to share in the joy of food and good company. After all, hygge is all about creating warm and welcoming spaces for loved ones.
Baking Christmas Treats
Baking is not just about the sweets—it’s a chance to create warm memories in the kitchen.
Cookie making can be a delightful tradition, where you can roll out gingerbread dough and decorate sugar cookies with loved ones.
Consider trying Scandinavian specialties such as pepparkaker (ginger cookies) or krumkake (Norwegian waffle cookies) for a more authentic hygge experience.
You can also experiment with different flavors and ingredients to make your treats unique and personal. And don’t forget to save some for Santa!
Nothing says cozy like holding a steaming mug of hot cocoa topped with marshmallows. For the adults, mulled wine or spiced cider add a festive touch, warming you from the inside out.
Remember that it’s the act of enjoying these beverages slowly, savoring each sip, that truly embraces the spirit of hygge.
Gather your friends and family for a hygge-inspired Christmas dinner. Your holiday feast can feature roast meats, hearty root vegetables, and rich gravies.
Create a sense of togetherness with shared dishes and a leisurely pace, ensuring everyone has time to enjoy the food and the company.
In the Nordic countries, it is common to serve fish dishes, such as gravlax or smoked salmon, as part of the Christmas feast.
Don’t forget to top off the meal with some decadent sweet treats, like a traditional Norwegian riskrem (cold rice pudding) or a Danish kransekage (almond ring cake).
Embracing the spirit of hygge during Christmas means creating a warm atmosphere where you enjoy the good things in life with your loved ones.
Focused on simplicity and togetherness, this section guides you on how to make the most of your time with friends and family.
Nothing embodies hygge more than sharing moments with your family. Imagine sitting by the fireplace in your own home, sipping some hot drinks, and playing board games or telling stories.
These activities are not only about the actions themselves but about spending quality time making memories together.
Simple activities like baking cookies together or making homemade ornaments can also be incredibly enjoyable while creating a sense of togetherness.
Grab your scissors, paper, and glue because crafting is a quintessential part of a hygge Christmas.
You could make paper bag wreaths or simple DIY festive stars that not only add coziness to your home but also foster a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie as you craft in unison.
One popular activity for Norwegian to do during this time is called lysdypping – making homemade candles using old wax and wick. It’s a fun and creative way to recycle while also adding warmth and light to the holiday atmosphere.
Games and Entertainment
Hygge is perfect for slowing down and enjoying each other’s company. Bring out the board games, set up card tournaments, or engage in storytelling.
These forms of entertainment create laughter and joy, key ingredients for a hygge-filled holiday; it’s about enjoying the present and the people you’re with.
Put away the screens and distractions, and dive into an evening of cozy games and entertainment.
The Editor’s Note
Hygge, in itself and of itself, is a way of life. It is not just a list of activities to simply check off; it’s about being present and fully engaged in the moment, whether that moment is spent with others or alone, and regardless of the weather outside.
So, as the festive season approaches, remember to embrace hygge and all it has to offer. Take your time to slow down, enjoy the simple pleasures of life, and bask in the warmth and coziness of the season.