Happy Waffle Day! And other holidays named after food


Today is Waffle Day in Sweden, and the reason why today of all days is Waffle Day I find quite amusing.

March 25th is the Feast of The Annunciation according to the Catholic Church calendar, the day on which the archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive a child, the Son of God. Why March 25th? The date was arrived at by the following highly scientific calculation:

  1. Everybody knows that Jesus was born on Christmas Day, December 25th.
  2. Everybody also knows that pregnancy lasts nine months.
  3. Nine months before Christmas is March 25th.

Ipso facto, habeas corpus delicti, we have determined the date of the Annunciation to be March 25th via incontrovertible logic.

In England, the holiday is known as Lady Day, a name which is echoed Sweden, where the holiday goes by the name Our Lady's Day: Vårfrudagen. Now, if you say Vårfrudagen really fast and mumble it, somebody with bad hearing might misinterpret what you said as Vaffeldagen, which means Waffle Day.

Now, Waffle Day is not to be confused with Pancake Day, a British holiday which coincides with Shrove Tuesday, the day before the beginning of Lent. Unlike Waffle Day, which is based on a pun, Pancake Day had a practical origin: In olden days, consumption of dairy products was prohibited during Lent, and pancakes were a convenient way to use up your leftover eggs, butter, and milk all at one go. (That is, on years when it isn't cancelled.)

And this year, a Polish colleague taught me about Pączki Day, a holiday that takes place on the Thursday before Lent and is apparently celebrated by "eating as many pączki as possible." Pączki are pastries that resemble a jelly-filled doughnut, and the holiday served the same practical purpose as Pancake Day in England.

What food-based holidays exist in your country? Here are a few more to get you started:

  • Greece: Τσικνοπέμπτη (Tsiknopempti = Barbecue Thursday). Eat lots of barbecued meat on the Thursday before Lent.
  • East Asia: 中秋節 (中秋节, zhōngqiūjié = Mid-Autumn Festival, a.k.a. the Mooncake Festival). Eat moon cakes in late September. The traditional filling is lotus seed paste, but for some reason I imprinted on red bean paste.
Comments (35)
  1. Bob says:

    Thanksgiving in the US, apparently.

  2. memsom says:

    IIRC the "Lady" is actually a corruption of the word "Lord" with some achaic case suffix.

  3. Krischan says:

    Not in my country, but in Russia there is a folk holiday before the Great Lent too, the Butter Week. But it has two roots – it was a former holiday celebrating the coming of spring with sunny round pancakes.

    Масленица

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslenitsa

  4. Gabe says:

    In the USA, March 14 (3/14) is pie day!

    OK, it’s really pi day, but it sounds the same.

  5. Qbeuek says:

    It’s not actually Pączki Day – it’s called Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek) and pączki is the most common food eaten, but not the only one.

  6. Henrik says:

    It should say "Våffeldagen", not "Vaffeldagen" in the fifth paragraph.

  7. And don’t forget "quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur."

  8. Magnus says:

    In Sweden, we also eat semlor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semla) on fettisdagen (Mardi Gras) and, as of late, we have kanelbullens dag ("cinnamon roll day").

  9. Name required says:

    Switzerland: every day is raclette or fondue day! Well, actually not, but it would be nice :-)

    There are half day holidays to go shooting, however.

  10. Hilda says:

    For "中秋節", it literally means "Mid-Autumn festival" and the name has nothing to do with moon cake. It is just that moon cake is a common food for celebration, so people occationally refer to the festival as "Mooncake festival" (very informal and uncommon). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mid-Autumn_Festival

  11. Mike says:

    Your Polish colleague has hidden some implementation details. Pączki Day is actually call a Fat, Greasy Thursday

  12. SkookumPete says:

    I believe the idea behind Pancake Day (and Mardi Gras = "Fat Tuesday") was to eat up all the lard in the house, since meat and its byproducts were prohibited during Lent.

  13. MazeGen says:

    Here in Czech Republic, in country which continues to lead the world in beer consumption, every day is "pivní den", beer day ;-)

  14. Pete says:

    The best thing about calculations involving nine months of gestation is that gestation is actually closer to ten months. Oops. (It’s either 38 or 40 weeks, depending on when you start counting.)

  15. Ytram says:

    38 weeks from conception, 40 weeks from last period.  A month on average has 4.35 weeks.  Therefore gestation is just under or over 9 months, depending on where you count from.

    /having a baby soon ;)

  16. Al says:

    @memsom

    I recently heard that it was a ‘corruption’ of "Lady’s" day. Therefore it’s the same name as in Sweden, just been corrupted somewhat. The corruption is (apparently) that at the time the English language didn’t have possessives for certain nouns, and it’d seem that Lady (in the Mary sense or the lady sense I don’t know) didn’t have one, so Lady day was correct at the time and is now not so correct. But I can’t remember where I read that recently…

  17. Puckdropper says:

    Calculating back 9 months would be even funnier if Christmas was in November.  Every four years (unless evenly divisible by 400, naturally), would the date change to February 26?

  18. Skippy says:

    In Pennsylvania Dutch Country we have Fastnacht Day on Shrove Tuesday.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fastnacht

  19. Martin says:

    Never thought an American would teach me about Swedish customs, but there you go. Nice story.

    Incidentally, my wife and I realized it was waffle day as we were frying up some pancakes. The batter is essentially the same so we could’ve just dug up our waffle iron but, alas, we had already started frying the pancakes and were too late.

  20. jphiii says:

    Just a note that this year the Annunciation is actually on the 31st, due to Easter.

  21. Scott says:

    In the Detroit area, pączki are pretty popular on Fat Tuesday, because of our large Polish population in Hamtramck.

  22. Julian says:

    In the UK, the tax year starts on April 6 which is 11 days after March 25. In 200 years, the Inland Revenue has never bothered changing from the traditional year start on Lady Day.

  23. josh says:

    "In the USA, March 14 (3/14) is pie day!  OK, it’s really pi day, but it sounds the same."

    That’s an important distinction!  1/23 is pie day.  (According to the American Pie Council, which is good enough for me.)  This means you get two days for celebrating pie without being redundant.

  24. Jeremy says:

    Hey Skippy! I was going to mention Fastnacht day, but you stole my thunder!

  25. Anon says:

    "The traditional filling is lotus seed paste, but for some reason I imprinted on red bean paste."

    Peanut butter is quite obviously the best filling for mooncakes.

  26. Villi Helgason says:

    In Iceland we have:

    Bolludagur – Creamy bun with jelly

    Sprengidagur – Salted lamb and lentil soup

    Also, during the month of "Þorri" we have "Þorrablót" where we eat sheaps head, rams balls, shark meat, a sort of haggis, dried fish, smoked lamb and wash everything down with Brennivín (a snaps).  As you can gather from the menu, it is an old viking celebration (that has zero to do with the Christian religion).  You would be surprized how tasty some of the above mention stuff actually is : )

  27. Walter says:

    Here in the Netherlands we’ve got the sugar fest at the end of ramadan.

  28. George Jansen says:

    The back story is supposedly about revenge rather than food, but the emblem is striking:

    http://www.saeubrenner.com/

  29. Most of what I first thought I had to say has already been said by our host, and by other swedes, in the thread.

    I introduced Våffeldagen to my US host upon arriving yesterday. They were amused of the occasion and delighted by the waffles I made. Homemade batter with whipped cream, flour and water.

    Now, there are more Swedish food days. Of course, Christmas has a huge set of specific foodstuff that only happen there. Then there is Midsummer, also with specific celebrations if not isolated specific foods. And the Crayfish premiere in August, when the Crayfish eating season starts. And the St. Martin’s goose (Mårtensgås) in November (or is it December? I can never remember that one)

  30. Kris says:

    The dates are not held by the Church to be the actual dates of events, but the celebrations thereof.

  31. Mihai says:

    For easter day in Romania you would eat painted eggs (http://images.google.com will give you a good idea) and a special lamb disk (http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b89/Adisor1/Pasqua2006/14_drob_2.jpg)

    And of course there are traditional dishes for Christmas.

  32. Pongal in India: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pongal

    Pongal is a sweet rice dish that many of you folks have not had the pleasure of tasting.

  33. cheong says:

    Regarding mooncake, while the traditional filling is lotus seed paste, I think green bean paste is a more common choice then red bean paste for the new style ones.

  34. Kjartan Þór says:

    One note about the Icelandic food days

    Bolludagur is the monday before lent

    Sprengidagur the Tuesday before lent

    and Þorri is from ca mid jan to mid feb and for a more detailed listing of what is eaten http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorramatur

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