Hygge through the Ages

STREAMING. Hygge is hot. Barely pronounceable, the concept even made the shortlist for Word of the Year in the UK. But what does it mean? One way to learn how to hygge is to explore the historical footage, going as far back as 1899, on the Danish Film Institute's streaming site Denmark on Film.

Abroad, currently there is great demand for books like "How to Hygge" and "The Book of Hygge." And hygge (how to pronounce) was close to being named Oxford Dictionaries' “Word of the Year” in the UK in 2016. Hygge is, no doubt, in vogue.

But what is hygge? According to Wikipedia the word hygge is used in both Danish and Norwegian. Hygge can be a feeling, a mood or something you do. The word is also used in combination with other words, for example julehygge (Christmas hygge). Hygge has associations of something nice, relaxed, safe and recognizable. Usually hygge is associated with social interaction – you get together with family or friends to enjoy yourselves. But you can also hygge on your own by doing something alone like reading a good book in front of the fireplace while enjoying a cup of tea.


Find the Danish version of the hygge film clip selection on danmarkpaafilm.dk.

Denmark on Film

The historical streaming site "Danmark på film" presents 83 hours (as per December 2016) of newly digitised documentary film footage from the period of 1899-1965. The films depict everyday life and special events all across Denmark.

The site features an interactive map of Denmark that makes it easy to find film clips from specific towns or regions. Users can contribute their own stories and historical knowledge, make clips from the films and share them with others.

"Danmark på film" is publicly available and free. No login or subscription is required. Although not available in English, the site is accessible from IP addresses outside Denmark.

"Danmark på film" was launched in 2015 and is an independent web portal on the Danish Film Institute's short and documentary streaming site Filmcentralen.


Taking matters in hand, the editors behind the streaming site Denmark on Film attempt to identify the concept of hygge through historical events, big and small, filmed across the country. How did the Danes hygge in the old days? These clips, shot between 1899 and 1942, present summer hygge, winter hygge, royal hygge, local hygge, fun hygge and of course – hygge around the coffee table.

May you hygge with the following film clips.

Christmas with the Elfelt Family

Peter Elfelt, Denmark's first filmmaker, is filming his family gathered around the Christmas tree. The mother, probably Elfelt's, receives presents.

1899, Copenhagen, 0:46 m, silent
Link to the clip on danmarkpaafilm.dk

Coffee in Minus 6 Degrees Celcius

A cup of coffee keeps you warm in the cold. Copenhageners gather around the coffee cart selling hot coffee for 10 cents per mug.
1918, Copenhagen, 0:17 m, silent
Link to the clip on danmarkpaafilm.dk

Tea with the Royal Family

At the Royal palace, King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid are drinking tea with their three daughters Princess Margrethe (the current Queen), Princess Benedikte and Princess Anne Marie.
1955, Amalienborg in Copenhagen, 2 m, silent
Link to the clip on danmarkpaafilm.dk

Christmas Dinner at the Telephone Exchange

A group of ladies at a telephone exchange are enjoying Christmas dinner – drinking, eating and having fun.
1940, Copenhagen, 0:26 m, silent
Link to the clip on danmarkpaafilm.dk

Family Get-together

An elderly couple are sitting in the garden of their town house. Coffee is served. The rest of the family drops by.
1924, Viborg, 3:12 m, silent
Link to the clip on danmarkpaafilm.dk

Christmas Emergency

On Christmas Eve, the employees at an emergency centre are having a good time playing musical chairs. Suddenly the alarm sounds, and the team rushes off in haste.
1940, 0:35 m, silent
Link to the clip on danmarkpaafilm.dk

Ice Skating in Fredericia

Skaters – plus a chair sled – are having fun on a frozen moat in the town of Fredericia. Others are sledding down one of the town's steep streets.
1907, Fredericia, 2:22 m, silent
Link to the clip on danmarkpaafilm.dk

Garden Party near Copenhagen

It's summer, and lunch is enjoyed at a garden party in Søvang south of Copenhagen. The menu includes beer and schnapps.
1949, Søvang, 1:28 m, silent
Link to the clip on danmarkpaafilm.dk 

How to Celebrate a Silver Wedding

We are at a silver wedding, held on a Sunday in summer in a seaside hotel north of Copenhagen.
1925, Tisvildeleje, 3 m, silent
Link to the clip on danmarkpaafilm.dk

Summer Relaxation

The Heckscher family unwinds in their summer house in Taarbæk. The clip shows the couple Knud and Margit Heckscher and their son Eigil.
1936, Taarbæk, 0:37 m, silent
Link to the clip on danmarkpaafilm.dk

A Day at the Holiday Camp

The residents of a summer holiday camp are spending a day of leisure: smoking, drinking coffee, reading books, relaxing in the sun, riding their bikes to the beach.
1942, Hundested, 3:06 m, silent
Link to the clip on danmarkpaafilm.dk