Denmark has perfected the concept of Holiday Cosiness, and now you too can enjoy the gentle warmth that only a Scandinavian Christmas can bring.
Winter is a cold, brutal time of the year. The days are short, and even when it’s daytime the sun is often blocked out by clouds. We in the north live in perpetual darkness for practically six months of the year. It’s sad. It’s depressing. And some people really freakin’ hate it.
And yet some countries that live in the Northern Hemisphere are the happiest places on Earth. Finland is actually 2018’s happiest country, according to the World Happiness Report, and the year before that it was Norway.
Denmark won in 2016, and it was probably in no small part to a single Danish word: hygge.
Hygge (which sounds like “hue-gah” from the lips of a true Dane) is one of those words that doesn’t have an English counterpart. As best it can be translated, hygge refers to a feeling of cosiness, contentment, and complete relaxation that can only come when you feel a sense of togetherness with the people around you.
That sense of togetherness is key, according to British journalist Helen Russell. She moved to Denmark and later wrote The Year Of Living Danishly to try and explain the Danes’ secret to happiness at the worst time of the year.
"Danes are very trusting and if you trust your neighbors, you're less anxious and have the headspace to be happy," Russell told The Huffington Post. “You feel better and are less stressed. Plus, trusting others can make them behave better so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."
Togetherness is also a big part of what makes Christmas in Denmark a communal celebration. Russell explains, "In Denmark, it's customary to invite anyone who's going to be alone at Christmas to join you and your family for a hyggelig time.”
Besides the social aspects of hygge, there are also a few interior design choices that help to bring out hygge in your personal space.
Rule one: lighting. Denmark is the number one purchaser of candles in Europe, and that gentle warm glow is a key component of developing your inner hygge.
If you don’t like candles, a fireplace is a good option, but really you just need something that emits the same colors as a gentle flame. There are tons of LED light sources that can be set to produce colored light at specific wavelengths to mimic flame, so get one of those to install in place of your typical light fixtures.
Next up is nature. Denmark is all about bringing the outdoors indoors, so try bringing a potted plant inside for the winter. If that doesn’t work, wood furniture can give the ambiance of a log cabin that will really help brighten the mood on a cold winter day.
Finally, blankets and cushions. Nothing beats a giant sofa with oodles of blankets and a cup of hot cocoa when it’s time to kick back and relax on a cold winter’s night. So bust out that fleece onesie and invest in a good down comforter, then light some candles and cozy up with a good book. That’ll get you through both the Holidays and the cold winter months until the sun comes back in Spring.