Find your pumpkin pie coziness and peppermint hot chocolate love.
First off, in case you didn’t know, hygge is pronounced HOO-guh.
Oxford’s English Dictionary defines hygge as : a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).
I’m not Danish and I’ve never been to Denmark. But when I read The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, I learned that while there are certain practices, traditions, and behaviors that are associated with hygge, hygge is not a practice, tradition, or behavior in and of itself. It’s a quality of energy and a universal feeling we all appreciate and enjoy.
It’s not the candles, or the cookies, or the fireside gatherings while it’s snowing outside, but the feeling you get from the candles, or the cookies, or the fireside gatherings while it’s snowing outside.
While the cozy, comfortable, sweet, and ambient quality of hygge is (of course) desirable year round, there’s a particular yearning for it over the holidays. The cold-weather craving for hygge, in fact, is why it feels so good at this time of year to gather, decorate, give and receive gifts, wear fluffy slippers, and share festive food.
It’s no coincidence that Denmark, the country that holds hygge in such high regard, has a lot of cold, dark days. Denmark is often rated as one of the happiest countries anyway, perhaps in large part because so many of its citizens value hygge so much and have made the cultivation of hygge into an art form. (Denmark also has an amazingly inclusive and functional social welfare program, which, one could argue, also falls in line with a cultural value system that prioritizes warm-heartedness.)
In my own book Magical Housekeeping, I discuss the ways interacting with your home can create positive change in your life, especially by employing practices such as feng shui, clutter clearing, cleaning, magic, ritual, and conscious design. In fact, all these things can contribute significantly to the hygge quotient over the holidays.
In this article, we’ll look at how to maximize all the holiday hygge feels.
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Create a Cozy Atmosphere
Let’s start with creating the space for holiday hygge.
First, I always recommend clutter clearing and cleaning, as these simple, everyday practices will boost and improve the vibe. Donate the books you’ll never read and the clothes you’ll never wear. Let go of doodads and tchotchkes that are just sitting there gathering dust. Repair or get rid of broken stuff that’s just taking up space. Shred and recycle old papers, junk mail, and magazines. Clean out your fridge and throw out the expired stuff in your cupboards. Then give your space a thorough cleaning and make it sparkle.
Now, how about that lighting? A desire for hygge inspires the citizens of Denmark to burn lots of candles, but you can be more mindful of air quality while still creating an ambient lighting scheme if you choose things like Himalayan salt lamps, electric candles, warm lightbulbs, recessed or dimmer lights, paper lantern lights, and twinkle lights. And of course when you do burn candles, choose clean burning options. Generally speaking, think of the radiant light of a flickering fire and do your best to recreate it in your space.
Next, look around and make sure you’ve created the space for relaxation and heart-centered connection. Reading nooks, furry throw blankets, and small groupings of chairs angled conversationally are all nice little ways to welcome in those hygge moments.
Finally, pay attention to scent. If you’re an incense person, I like cinnamon and pine incense (not at the same time) this time of year. For essential oils (you can diffuse them in a diffuser, or you can create or obtain an aromatherapeutic mist), consider peppermint, spearmint, and rosemary. Also maybe check out this piney blend called Woodland Walk and this delicious sounding Pumpkin Spice blend. Whether you go with incense or oil, be extra mindful (and possibly go ahead and forget this recommendation entirely) if you live with children, pets, or anyone with sensitive noses or lungs.
Hygge-Inspired Holiday Decor
For simplicity’s sake, and because minimalism is my jam, my October through November holiday decor in recent years has featured just one item: a pumpkin on the coffee table. This year it’s one of those cinderella pumpkins in a lush shade of bright orange. On the other hand, I have a friend (bestselling author Ellen Dugan) who decorates for the fall holidays with exponentially more. I mean, like, so much more. Neither way is right or wrong, or more hygge or less hygge, except, of course, when it comes to our individual experiences. For me, a single pumpkin in November feels like just the right amount of cozy. For Ellen, nothing but a single pumpkin in November would depress her utterly.
I like to wait until December to put up the Christmas/holiday/Yule tree, but my husband Ted always wants to put the tree up as soon as we hit November. So, we’ve compromised by waiting until the day after Thanksgiving, which is when we also play jazz, hang our stockings, and put out our other (relatively minimal but very cute) holiday decor.
Tune into your own personal sense of comfort and sweetness. Then choose holiday decorations – simple, elaborate, or anywhere in between – that help call those feelings in.
Keep it affordable/biodegradable/eco-conscious if you’d like. For example, you can bring nature indoors with things like pine boughs and pinecones. These orange garlands are cute and easy. Or, consider sewing your own stockings or holiday bunting out of up-cycled textiles. (What I mean is, you can look for holiday sweaters or pajamas at yard sale or thrift store and cut them up for your holiday projects.)
Comforting Holiday Food and Drink
If you like to bake or cook, kitchen witchery is always heavy on the hygge.
I, for one, go through phases. Sometimes I find cooking and baking fun and rewarding, other times I really, really do not. But even when I don’t, I like to have a luxurious selection of warm beverage options on hand like coffee, Teechino, and herbal tea. I also like to roast vegetables or assemble salads regularly because it’s easy and, you know: vegetables.
Decide what type of kitchen magic you’re in the mood for this holiday season and then make yourself some plans.
Here are a few ideas to spark your inspiration.
Garam masala butternut squash – I make something very similar to this, but without the brown sugar. Although hmm…Brown sugar. Yum.
Also, I mean, come on: how about some hot chocolate with Peppermint Schnapps. Think you don’t like winter? Think again.
Rest, Reflection, and Reconnection
Last year around this time, I felt incredibly irritable and stressed. When I described this to my dear friend, author and angel intuitive Tanya Carroll Richardson, she heard the angels say I should take two whole weeks off for the holidays. I was shocked, having never considered such a thing in my adult life.
But, I mean, the angels! Said to take two weeks off! So I did.
And my life changed. I swear this whole year would have been different – like, in the sense of more harried, hurried, and unhappy – if I had not followed this angelic guidance to the letter.
Because, you see, this time of enforced downtime gave me the time and space I needed to rethink, reconsider, and restructure my schedule, how and where I spent my energy, and my entire value system. I found myself reading books that challenged me to cut back on social media time, prioritize my own self-care, and seek out the things that bring me joy. With so much peace and quiet, my nervous system reset itself and it became so much easier to expand into the magic of the moment. And, when I recharged my energy in this way, I rediscovered my natural enthusiasm for connection with friends and family members, as well as my motivation for doing what I do.
So, this holiday season, turn up the hygge and change your life for the better by cozying in, relaxing, reflecting, and going within. So when you do spend time with others, your batteries will be good and charged up.
Socialize, Communicate, and Connect
…Speaking of which, I also recommend connecting with your friends and loved ones. But first connect with yourself and decide what feels authentic to you.
Maybe you want to make cards, or just take your time to find the perfect and most magical ones to send. Or maybe you want to skip that particular tradition this year.
Perhaps you want to throw a big party, or a small party, or an intimate get together, or just make a list of long distance loved ones and give them a ring. Maybe you feel like traveling or maybe you very much don’t. But in one way or another, reach out in a loving and heart-centered way. As much as we might love being alone, we are a social species who thrives on connection. So make an effort and give yourself a push if needed, but do so gently, with consciousness and self-compassion.
This is a time of year to harmoniously, attentively balance introspection with extroversion. Remember: that will look different every year.
Live Your Hygge
In conclusion, manifest hygge in your own time and way. Tune into what hygge means to you. Ask yourself: how does it feel? How does it look? What does it entail? Then turn the cultivation of hygge into an art form and let it bolster your magic, nourish your spirit, warm your heart.
Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate, I wish you a most magical, hygge-filled holiday season. I’m sending you all the pumpkin pie coziness and peppermint hot chocolate love.
What are your holiday traditions? What are you in the mood for this year? How will you take care of your gorgeous and lovable self? Please share your thoughts in a comment below.