Holiday Hygge Guide – 7 Steps to the Perfect Scandinavian Christmas

Discover our favorite holiday hygge traditions and learn how to create the perfect Scandinavian Christmas.

Our favorite holiday hygge traditions to create the perfect Scandinavian Christmas

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I LOVE hygge season.

There aren’t enough candles, snowfalls, and cozy holiday hygge traditions to wear this Dane out! Send me ALL the Carlsberg beer.

Nothing makes me happier than to see the vintage Danish concept make its way across the ocean and into the homes of wintering Americans. I love seeing friends and neighbors be a bit more mindful and appreciative of the simple things in life. There’s a reason Danes are the happiest…

But while nostalgic and uplifting, hygge has arrived with oversized knit blankets and cringe-worthy matching fleece pajamas. Holiday hygge is all about the coziness, they say!

Oh my poor Danish grandfather. If he were around to see it…

Hygge, my Scandinavian family will tell you, is a feeling. Not a word. Holiday hygge is more about togetherness than creating some sort of cozy Scandinavian Christmas aesthetic.

We’re breaking down what hygge actually is and sharing seven ways to weave Scandinavian Christmas trends into your own holidays so you can feel calmer, more mindful, and full of seasonal joy.

holiday hygge coziness can make the holidays much more mindful and comfortable

So, What is Hygge

Hygge is a Danish concept used to describe the pleasure or intimacy of a simple moment. Born in the cold, winter months, hygge came to be as a way to embrace winter and its drearyness.

It’s less about blankets and coffee, though, and more about calmness, togetherness, and the enjoyment of simple pleasures. That feeling when something ordinary lights up your soul. 

Sorry, Pinterest, it’s not the Danish word for cozy. There’s no such thing as a holiday hygge aesthetic and you can’t create the perfect Scandinavian Christmas through a checklist or challenge. It makes me want to throw my glass of wine at my computer screen.

Wait no, my wine brings me hygge.

Yes, we Danes light candles, use cloth napkins, and have the simplest of tidy homes. However, attempting to define hygge as a lifestyle trend takes away from the authenticity and nostalgia associated with what it really means.

But, yes, there is a focus on winter. And we can all learn a thing or two about embracing the winter and finding heartfelt moments during the holidays.

Just please hold the matching family pajamas…

But Wait, How Do You Say Hygge

HOO-GAH? Not quite. HEE-GAH? Nope. HUE-GAH? Closer, but still no.

Form your mouth like you’re about to say the letter O, and instead say the letter E.

what is holiday hygge and how can you adopt Scandinavian Christmas traditions this year?

What is Holiday Hygge: 7 Steps to a Scandinavian Christmas

Be More Present

With the roots of hygge being awareness, mindfulness, and enjoyment of the little things, it makes sense that we must slow down and be more present to experience that.

The holidays can often incite feels that are the exact opposite, though. There’s always so much to do!

Start, though, by remembering what the holidays are about, and by making time to be with loved ones, not just shop for them. Make gift wrapping a family affair. Let go of the cleaning.

Enjoy a hot mug of tea while watching the snow fall. Or make time to take the kids sledding.

Even if you live in a warm climate, build in opportunities for togetherness. Enjoy food, company, wine, holiday outings, and leave mobile devices behind.

This first step will get you in the holiday hygge mood!

holiday hygge is more about being together than gifts or a certain aesthetic

Prioritize Time Together Over Gifts

I love a thoughtful, personal gift as much as the next person. Practical gifts can be great, too. What’s more important, though, is being together.

It’s the connection and intimacy that holiday hygge is all about, not the gift itself. Yet we often get hung up finding the perfect present for someone, when all they actually want is togetherness.

danish ornaments

Create a Calming, Holiday Hygge Inspired Space

I don’t mean simply buy a ton of candles because you suddenly think you’re Danish, or decorate based on Instagram trends.

Holiday hygge isn’t an aesthetic, but our space should reflect how we want to feel. I love decorating with soft lights, white candles, and a few neutral, minimal Scandinavian Christmas decorations that remind me of my heritage.

Decorate your home for the holidays in a way that brings peace and calm, not clutter and chaos.

A Scandinavian Christmas Lasts More Than Just One or Two Days

Christmas “officially” starts on the 23rd in Denmark, but the celebration lasts at least a week.

Traditionally, extended families celebrate on Christmas even by attending Mass, followed by a large, elaborate dinner. Christmas Day is more intimate, and for children.

The entire week, shops stay closed and people celebrate with one another. I would love to see this happen one day in America, but for now, I try to take as much off my plate as I can during the holidays so I have time to be spontaneous and present.

christmas cookies

Create Fun Traditions

Holiday hygge isn’t complete without your own, special Christmas traditions. Whether it’s shopping for a tree, hanging stockings, or baking cookies, traditions are what personalize the holidays.

Scandinavian families always decorate their trees together, often celebrating it as “Little Christmas.” We grew up doing this and do the same now with out children.

It can be anything special, though.

Every year we serve Swedish meatballs and lingonberries. I also have to watch It’s a Wonderful Life at least once. When we lived in New York, Christmas wasn’t complete without a trip to New York City.

A traditional Scandinavian Christmas dinner is festive, elaborate, and designed to bring families together.

Serve Up Elaborate and Festive Food and Drink

Scandinavians don’t hold back with their Christmas feasts. Elaborate meals, like duck or goose, are served and families gather around the Smörgåsbord. Nothing brings people together like food.

Almost all restaurants are closed and the moments of intimacy are shared in one another’s homes, around home cooked meals. 

And let’s not forget about the fine drinks (traditionally Akvavit followed by a beer). What better time to bring out your fancy glasses, a nice bottle, and cook up your best meal yet!

Go Outside

Scandinavians are obsessed with fresh air. Unlike other cultures, Danish families don’t shy away from playing outside in sub freezing weather. Clean, crisp air is a great antidote for holiday anxiety and gateway for finding calmer moments.


What brings you peace during the holidays? Do these Scandinavian Christmas Traditions inspire you to be more mindful this winter? Are you all about the holiday hygge?

You KNOW I am all about the holiday hygge. Nothing makes me happier than seeing cozy white lights, candles, Danish garland, and our travel-themed Christmas tree. Living in Texas, I do miss snow though…

I also absolutely love hosting Christmas, cooking for my family, and seeing our loved ones gather around good food and fine wine.

This year we’re hoping to start a few new holiday traditions with our boys, too, especially since my toddler is older and more aware of the holidays now.

Save our holiday hygge inspiration to Pinterest:

holiday hygge guide - 7 steps to a scandinavian christmas

More Holiday Inspiration and Gift Guides You Might Enjoy:

3 Comments

  1. December 12, 2018 / 2:35 pm

    I love this post and absolutely agree. My hygge moments this winter are going for long bathtub times and just letting my soul rest for a while.

  2. November 19, 2019 / 10:58 am

    I definitely think that I have to let go of my schedule for the holidays no matter what with cooking, decorating, and trying to enjoy a new city with all of its *real* fall and winter activities. Nothing else seems as important lately. The blog post can wait…

    I’m also giving up a lot of mindless scrolling and basically tossing IG to the wind since it just doesn’t create any happy and loving feelings. I want to stick with things that inspire and motivate me as well as make me a better person.

    This winter will be all about self-care and more yoga, enjoying the fireplace with a good book and tree in the background (and kitty curled up on my lap), and spending time with friends and family. I’m hoping we can still hike too with the weather.

    • Tori
      Author
      November 25, 2019 / 9:01 am

      IG is a time and happiness sucker. I pretty much open it once every day or two to see what’s going on… and usually it’s nothing LOL.

      I miss a real fall already! It’s been in the 50s and 60s. It doesn’t feel as cozy but I definitely don’t miss shoveling snow. Glad you’re enjoying a cozy fall/winter.

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