Unless you’ve been living under a rock – or come from the strange and faraway land known as Oregon – you probably know that it’s Lent, regardless of whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, another religion, non-religious, or worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster. While Lent may mean more different things than the Barry Bonds steroid investigation, the day before it begins – called “Fettisdagen” in Swedish – is usually seen as a time to celebrate, with parades, dancing, and drinking way too much. In other words, it’s Thomas S. Monson’s worst nightmare, or Paris Hilton’s dream.
Although New Orleans is much closer than Växjö, I’ve never actually experienced the pageantry of Mardi Gras until I came across the Atlantic. I know: in 21 years I have never worn a single pair of cheap plastic beads. Until now.
And I’ll be honest: I learned a lot. Among the more important revelations:
1. For some strange reason, many foreigners and Swedes seem to think that anything involving the word “party” means they should dress up in Halloween costumes. And when everyone else dresses up, you tend to do the same.
2. Semla buns are addictive. Really addictive. Hell, they’re even more addictive than my grandma’s peanut butter cookies, something which I previously thought was impossible.
3. The more alcohol Swedes consume the more they speak Swenglish, a hodge-podge reminiscent of the Mets pitching staff. If you ask melancholy linguistic experts, it’s the reason why Swedish will become a dead language.
Okay, so I’ve heard that the global culture is spreading, that thanks to innovations like the Internet and Rice Krispies you can now find anything, anywhere. But when you celebrate an originally Italian holiday by wearing a Nigerian costume while eating Swedish and Mexican food on plates made in Hungary with silverware from China while partying with Germans, Dutch, French, Finns, Koreans, Norwegians, Swedes, Canadians, and Romanians, you know it’s true.
Though I should probably repent one of these days for all I’ve done in my life, exposing myself to new cultures doesn’t quite make the list. Besides, if it wasn’t for global culture and Frommer’s Travel Guides I’d probably still think that all Swedes eat herring, listen to ABBA, and only smile at a funeral. And Swedes, likewise, would never have gotten their semla in the first place.
I’m sure that won’t earn me any brownie points from Svenska Motståndsrörelsen.