Scandinavian winters of old were less hygge, more Nordic Noir

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


This winter hygge has replaced Nordic Noir as the UK’s favourite Scandi-import. But the festive season in the Nordic world has not always granted an opportunity for cosy mindfulness. Medieval sources offer a decidedly more terrifying vision of Christmas, or jól (yule), its proximity to the winter solstice putting it at the heart of icy nightmares.

In the tenth century, King Hákon the Good (c. 920-961) ordered that the pre-Christian festival of yule should be observed at the same time Christians celebrated Christmas, Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) tells us. The word jól was not replaced when it came to designate the Christian feast and related terms are still used in the modern Scandinavian languages. Both festivals involved drinking and feasting – but Old Norse texts also make a firm correlation between yuletide and the supernatural.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationThe Conversation
PublisherThe Conversation UK
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

Hannah Burrows receives funding from the Arts and Humanties Research Council.


  • Christmas
  • Nordic Noir
  • yuletide
  • Norse poetry
  • Hygge
  • Norse mythology


Dive into the research topics of 'Scandinavian winters of old were less hygge, more Nordic Noir'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this