Våffeldagen (Waffle Day) occurs on March 25th. Although Swedes enjoy waffles all the year round, they are particularly popular on Våffeldagen.
Why March 25th?
March 25th is exactly nine months from Christmas Day and so is known as Annunciation Day in the Christian calendar, as it was the day when the angel Gabriel pronounced the conception, or incarnation, of Jesus in the Virgin Mary.
So what's the connection with waffles?
Annunciation Day was called vårfrudagen (Our Lady Day). Vårfrudagen sounds a bit like våffeldagen, so Swedes decided to celebrate it by cooking waffles. And who says Swedes are too serious?
But isn't Annunciation Day on a Sunday?
Until 1953 the Feast of the Annunciation was a röd dag (red day/Bank Holiday) and was always on March 25th, but since then the holiday has been abolished and so instead it is held on a Sunday between 22nd and 28th March. It is now usually called Marie bebådelsedag.
Why are they called våfflor?
There is some doubt but one theory is that both waffles and våfflor are derived from wafre (wafer).
When did Swedes first start eating waffles?
Waffles have been around in Sweden since at least the 1600s, some suggest from 500 AD.
What were the original Swedish waffles like?
Swedish waffles were originally square because they were baked between two rectangular plates over an open fire, but as far as we know there has always been some kind of grid pattern to waffles. Originally they were made from soured cream, water, melted butter and eggs.
What are Swedish waffles like now?
Swedish waffles are thinner than Belgium or American waffles, circular and divided into five hearts.
From around 1900 it became popular to serve waffles in Sweden with jam and whipped cream.
Today, Swedes serve either frasvåfflor (crispy waffles) or äggvåfflor (egg waffles). Both types are usually served with jam or soft fruit and whipped cream or ice cream. Occasionally, savoury salted waffles are served with anything from prawns (shrimps) to cheese.
Why are waffles so popular in Sweden?
Until relatively recently most Swedes were very poor, living off the land and coping with a very harsh climate. Vårfrudagen became an important day in the Swedish calendar, particularly in the south of Sweden, because it marked the start of crop sowing.
With the start of spring the availability of both eggs and milk increased significantly. As eggs symbolised the start of spring, it became popular to use them to make waffles to celebrate.
To most poor farm workers in Sweden in the early 1900s våfflor with jam and whipped cream constituted unimaginable luxury, so it was no wonder that they were so popular.
Have Swedes always liked sweet things?
No, simply because most Swedes never had access to sweet things. Most Swedish peasants survived on a diet of gruel, bread, herrings, root vegetables, dried peas and pork. Indeed, Sweden had laws that dictated what different social classes may serve as desserts: farmers were only allowed to serve nuts and honey-sweetened fruit, whilst the nobility could serve whatever they liked.
In any case, sugar was considered to be a medicine and could only be bought at chemists; no one considered that it might be unhealthy.
Which type of waffles are best?
I think that is a matter of choice, but I prefer äggvåfflor with fruit and lightly whipped cream as I find them more filling and serve them for brunch or lunch! You can find recipes for both äggvåfflor (egg waffles) and frasvåfflor (crispy waffles) here.
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