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Swedish word of the day: fettisdagen

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Swedish word of the day: fettisdagen
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Today's word gives you as good an excuse as any to eat an enormous cream-filled bun.

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Fettisdagen literally means 'fat Tuesday' (fett + tisdag), and it is the Swedish name for the Catholic celebration of Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, being a literal translation of the latter. 

In 2024, it takes place on February 13th.

In Catholic tradition, this is the final day of Shrovetide, the period of confession and reflection before Lent, forty days of fasting or abstinence from luxuries. People would also use the final day before fasting to indulge in rich foods, hence the 'fat'. 

In Sweden, which is predominantly secular, the day has mostly lost its religious connotations, and it's not a public holiday.

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But the Swedes are not likely to pass up an opportunity to enjoy baked goods.

So the food-related part of the tradition has stuck around, and to most people in the country Fettisdagen is simply a chance to eat semlor: wheat, cardamom-spiced buns filled with almond paste and lots of whipped cream. In fact, the day is sometimes referred to simply as semmeldagen or semlans dag.

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Example sentences:

Många svenskar äter minst en semla på fettisdagen.

Many Swedes eat at least one semla on Shrove Tuesday.

Snart är fettisdagen här.

Shrove Tuesday will soon be here.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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