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Food and Drink For Members

Swedish food calendar: Eight delicious dates to stir into your schedule

The Local Sweden
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Swedish food calendar: Eight delicious dates to stir into your schedule
Sick of saffron buns and gingerbread after Christmas? Good news! Semla season is just around the corner. Photo: Caisa Rasmussen/TT

2024 is just around the corner, so what better time to get out your calendar and make a note of these important culinary highlights? Here are eight dates you shouldn't miss.

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1. Fat Tuesday

In winter it never seems like a bad idea to fill up on sugar and carbohydrates, but the semla bun has a special place in freezing February. The small wheat flour snacks, flavoured with cardamom and packed with whipped cream and almond paste are traditionally eaten on what is known as fettisdag or Fat Tuesday in Sweden and Shrove Tuesday in other Christian countries, which falls on February 13th in 2024.

The custom started when people ate the sweet treats during a last feast before the Christian fasting period of Lent got under way.

2. The first Thursday of March

The first Thursday in March - which in 2024 falls on the 7th - is a normal, boring första torsdagen i mars everywhere in Sweden, except the south-eastern region of Småland.

Their accent means that they often drop the "r" in words, pronouncing it fössta tossdan i mass. They celebrate this by eating marzipan cake (marsipantårta – or, in Småland, massipantåååta). It's a recent "holiday", created by local resident Jonas Sveningsson in 2010, but Swedes will accept any excuse to eat cake.

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3. Waffle Day

Waffles are consumed on March 25th in Sweden, which is known as Våffeldagen. The name comes from the Christian Vårfrudagen (Our Lady's Day), which in Swedish sounds almost like Våffeldagen (waffle day), but it is no longer linked to any religious events. The date historically marks the end of the winter and the beginning of spring. People gorge on the griddled cakes for breakfast, lunch, dinner or as an afternoon fika snack.

4. Crayfish season premiere

When the nights get warm and balmy in Sweden (usually for a matter of weeks), Swedes get together to mark the start of the crayfish season on August 8th. The boiled seafood is usually accompanied by some Swedish snaps and hearty singing. Crayfish have been eaten in Sweden since the sixteenth century, with the tradition of an annual August crayfish feast beginning in the 1900s.

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5. Cinnamon Bun Day

Swedes love their cinnamon buns so much they even gave the baked goods their own annual day – kanelbullens dag – which is marked on October 4th each year.

The holiday was invented in 1999 by the Home Baking Council (Hembakningsrådet), a club of baking ingredient producers now run by Danish sugar company Dansukker. The company wanted to create a baking tradition in honour of its 40th anniversary. Click here to find out how to make your own.

6. King Gustav II Adolf

Creamy sponge cakes decorated with marzipan or chocolates silhouettes of King Gustav II Adolf are eaten in memory of the Swedish monarch on November 6th. He was killed at the Battle of Lützen in 1632. The royal is widely regarded as having laid down much of the apparatus of the modern Swedish state, including the postal service, universities and key transport links.

7. Christmas Eve

Often the biggest feast of the year, regional dishes are popular at Christmastime in Sweden, so expect fish if you are invited to a coastal town or reindeer in northern Sweden.

Many families put together a platter or smörgåsbord of foods including ham, pork sausage, an egg and anchovy mixture (called gubbröra), herring salad, pickled herring, home-made liver pâté and potatoes. A more controversial ingredient is lutfisk, a dried fish soaked in water and lye to swell before it is cooked. 

8. Pancake Day

No we're not talking about Fat Tuesday again, the date in February when many people around the world eat pancakes. In Sweden, every Thursday is pancake day, with many Swedes enjoying a small version of the snack for lunch, usually with a pea soup as a prelude. The tradition goes back hundreds of years. Swedes serve their sweet pancakes with whipped cream and jam or berries.

Article written by Maddy Savage in 2014 and updated in 2023.

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