Imagine you live in a magical, far-away land. A land clothed in graceful swathes of Lollipop Woods and Gumdrop Mountains, populated by chocolate monsters and gingerbread people. Imagine a world where licorice is king and waffles get their own holiday… Oh wait. Sorry, that’s Sweden.
In a totally improbable turn of events, Sweden celebrates “Waffle Day”—an unofficial holiday whose sole reason for existing is a phonetic mix-up—on March 25. This year, my Waffle Day (or Våffeldagen) started in Swedish class. At that point, I wasn’t even aware of the significance of the seemingly-ordinary Friday. What a fool I was! An innocent! A naïve!
Fortunately, my Swedish class is not exactly, shall we say, “goal-oriented,” so we spent quite a bit of time discussing Waffle Day and its history in Sweden. Waffle Day was never intended to be a holiday as such, but March 25 is nine months before Christmas, and therefore a feast day for the Holy Mary. In Swedish, “Our Lady” is “Vår Fru,” and if you mumble determinedly enough, “Vår Fru” sounds a lot like “Våfflor,” which means waffles. Vår Fru Dagen becomes Våfflor Dagen, and all of a sudden Sweden has a Waffle Day.
Being the foreigner that I am, I find all this a little difficult to grasp. Like, you mean to tell me that people just started mispronouncing the name of a religious holiday en masse, and then they just kept going with it? Did they all just collectively say, “Meh. I like waffles better than church anyway?” Is this really possible?
I don’t know what the opposite of “the heights of religious fervor” is, but I think that Waffle Day comes pretty close.
I’ve also read that Swedes celebrate Waffle Day because it’s spring and back in the olden days, they were happy to finally have fresh milk and eggs, but I’m not sure I really believe that. If that were true, it could be “Practically Any Freshly-Baked Bread-like Item Day.” Plus, the Waffle/Our Lady thing seems a lot more convincing.
After discussing the Waffle Day situation for almost a half hour in class, we were instructed to write an essay on whether men or women drive better, and since I don’t really feel that passionately about the topic, I spent most of the next hour and a half thinking about waffles.
I rallied the troops—two other American girls with Swedish boyfriends—and we went off in search of a Real Cultural Experience. Unfortunately, we met with more disappointment than success. We went to Ebbas Skafferi, a really great café and coffee spot in Lund where I was sure they would have waffles. After confirming that they were on the menu for the day, we each ordered one… only to be told that the Swedish waffles had been sold out for the day and that all they were currently serving were Belgian waffles. The horrors!
We’re not that picky, so we ate them anyway. It felt a little wrong, though.
Fortunately, I was soon able to rectify the Belgian waffle snafu. Our friends Gustaf and Malin invited us over for dinner on Saturday, and in honor of an extended Waffle Day weekend, they suggested that we have waffles for dessert. I got unreasonably excited (At last! Real Swedish Waffles!), and then Malin and Gustaf realized that they weren’t really sure where their waffle press was since they just moved. They started going through some boxes, but to no avail. Not being the type to give up, though, they decided to just buy a new one so that we could go through with the plan.
At last! Real Swedish waffles! A day late, but just as delicious as expected.