Denmark's Hygge Isn't the Only Snuggly Tradition in the World

Anything that makes you cozy can make the cold days of winter more welcoming. Alenz Ozerova/Shutterstock

Hygge is a warm and cozy concept that's difficult to define. You'll know it when you feel it and you typically feel it — at least in Danish culture — when the calendar turns to the cold, solitude-filled days of wintertime.

It's a feeling and way of life that centers around coziness and companionship, including family and warm food as a buffer against loneliness, darkness and the cold.

The people of Denmark have long been obsessed with hygge (pronounced HYU-gah), but they aren't the only culture that practices this warm tradition of togetherness. Here's a look at other similar concepts from around the world.


lots of burning candles
Flickering candles are one way to set the stage for cozy nights. Africa Studio/Shutterstock

The Netherlands has a similar version of hygge, but Dutch News says it's "unfairly overlooked, easier on your pocket and less of a nightmare to pronounce." Gezellilgheid (pronounced ge-ZELL-ick-heid) means coziness, conviviality, contentedness, togetherness and belonging. The word derives from gezel which means companion or friend.

The perfect gezelligheid atmosphere might include lots of flickering candles and bunches of flowers, or just books stacked up on an end table with a dog curled up by the fire. The catchall phrase describes a feeling of fun or pleasant, warm situations that make you feel comfortable and happy.


friends in a coffee shop
Drinking coffee surrounded by friends could describe gemutlichkeit. DGLimages/Shutterstock

In Germany, the feeling of warmth, friendliness and good cheer is called gemutlichkeit (pronunced guh-myoot-lish-KYT). It's a similar feeling of coziness and togetherness that's hard to pinpoint with one English word.

German blogger Constanze describes it this way: "A soft chair in a coffee shop might be considered 'cozy'. But sit in that chair surrounded by close friends and a hot cup of tea, while soft music plays in the background, and that sort of scene is what you'd call gemütlich."

The feeling isn't limited to Germany, however. The city of Jefferson, Wisconsin, holds a three-day festival every September called Gemuetlichkeit Days (spelled a little differently) to celebrate the German heritage of many of its residents. It features German food, music and contests.


family watching TV at night
When days and nights are dark in winter, families often gather around the TV in Sweden. Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

In Sweden, where parts of the country face nearly unending darkness on winter days, it's no wonder they embrace a calming and warming winter tradition. Mys (pronounced mize) is about relaxing and finding comfort away from the stress (and cold) of the outside world.

Not that it's a competition with the Danish, but Culture Trip writes, "Swedish weather is worse than Danish weather. Parts of northern Sweden become dark 24 hours a day during winter. Temperatures can reach -30°C, (-22 degrees F) with widespread snow and plenty of Northern Lights sightings. The Swedes might have a little more incentive to keep warm and cozy, then."

Specifically in Sweden, fredagsmys is a big part of the mys concept. It translates into "cozy Fridays" and usually means that the end of a week is a time for comfort food and relaxation. The term popped up in the '90s, according to the Swedish Kitchen, as part of a marketing campaign for crisps (potato chips), but it has since become popular tradition.

"Fredagsmys takes on different shapes depending on who it is for: a couple, a family with kids and friends will all have their own variation. A key ingredient, however, is easy meals for which everyone is the master chef. Finger food and snacks are preferred to cooking and cleaning a pile of dirty pots and pans. On a Wednesday evening the kids may sit in front of the computer while the parents are busying themselves in the kitchen, but on Friday it is all about time together. Many also associate fredagsmys with watching television."


couple drinking in front of fireplace
This may or may not be what the Gaelic term cosagach means. Alexander Raths/Shutterstock

Scotland's answer to warmth and coziness, might be cosagach (pronounced COZE-a-goch). At least that's what VisitScotland says, promoting the word as the country's answer to the snuggly Danish hygge. According to the BBC, the tourism group had a campaign saying it was an old Gaelic word for "feeling snug, sheltered and warm" and they also identified it as a "top trend" for 2018.

House Beautiful describes the tourism board's pitch as: "Scotland is a country where Còsagach can be achieved in all seasons, but it's winter when it comes into its own,' it says. 'It's no secret that Scotland can have, at times, rather harsh and ferocious weather. 'In the winter when the storms rage and the waves crash against the rocks, there is nothing more satisfying than being curled up in front of the fire, book and hot toddy in hand, listening to the weather outside."

But some Gaelic language experts are perplexed by this newly assigned meaning of the ancient word. They say cosagach instead means a small hole where insects live or just "full of holes or crevices." Perhaps not the warm and fuzzy, cozy picture the tourist board was hoping to paint. But as Scottish journalist Conor Riodan tweeted:


mom and daughter cozy inside under a tent
People find ways to make everything cozier when winter comes in Norway. Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Like every other word on the list, the Norwegian koselig (pronounced KOOS-lee) is translated as cozy by English speakers. But it's much more than that, writes Norway Weekly.

"More than anything else, koselig is a feeling: that of coziness, intimacy, warmth, happiness, being content. To achieve the feeling of koselig, you need koselig things. In darker months, cafes provide blankets on their outdoor chairs, and shops light their entrances with candles. Back in the home, friends and family are entertained with simple, wholesome food, home-made waffles, and lashings of coffee, all within candlelit rooms. In the mountain cabin, the flask of pølser (hot dogs) are passed around by day, and a flask of cognac is passed around by night."