According to stats Denmark is rated the happiest country in the world, and it’s not surprising when you learn that the Danes have a cultural concept that keeps them cheerful. Hygge (pronounced HYU-gah), is that very cultural concept and it can take on a number of meanings and be applied to virtually any situation. The Danes find it incredibly difficult to describe just exactly what it is – but the rough English translation would be something to do with coziness.
At this time of year in Scandinavia, sunlight is only around for a few hours before the evening turns dark and dreary. It can make a lot of people feel low and unhappy, but not in Denmark. When sunsets early in the afternoon, it leaves them with no choice but to snuggle up with blankets, surrounded by candles.
Although we don’t use hygge in the UK, around Christmas time, we do tend to become a little happier. It is probably linked to the fact that we are spending time with family and friends and enjoying the festive season. However, when it gets to the New Year and work starts, moods start to plummet again. Not in Denmark though, Hygge is a notion that lasts all year round.
In summer, parks are filled with people eating picnics, taking in outdoor concerts and taking part in street festivals. Togetherness is a prime example of Hygge as it evokes happiness for the Danes. Hygge is not only provoked by events, though. Objects can also be described using the concept – some people believe certain food, a good book or a bike ride can be hyggeligt (HYU-gah-lee).
Because of hygge, Danish Christmases seem to be a lot more based around family and friends, good food and carols, rather than expensive gifts. The Danish culture is definitely more devoted to keeping things content, whereas here in the UK, the focus has shifted more towards money and material things. So maybe us Brits should introduce a little hygge into our everyday lives and find joy in the simple things in life.
If you are still a little confused though perhaps this video from Visit Denmark can explain more: