The day of the annunciation is the feast day that commemorates the Virgin Mary finding out from the angel that she is going to have a Son - the Son of God. This day falls, in most reasonably religious countries, on the 25th of March; in Sweden, however, it falls on the Sunday between the 22nd and the 28th of March - like so many other holidays in Sweden it is celebrated on the nearest weekend. One might say, if one is feeling sinister, that the Swedes like to save religious feasts for the weekends, keeping that sort of thing out of their every day life. One might not even be completely wrong in saying so.
In Sweden, the Holy Virgin's Annunciation Day or Marie Bebådelsedag is usually called Våffeldagen (Waffle day). The reason is, according to some, a sort of vulgarisation of the term Vår fru dagen (literally day of Our Lady). This has the good result that Swedish people mark the Annunciation Day by eating waffles. Most do not really do it to honour the Holy Virgin anymore but it is another way that Swedish customs deliciously keep religious festivals alive. Frasvåfflor, the kind of crispy waffles that are eaten in Sweden are crisp (as you'd expect) and eaten with sweet things like jam and cream. Sometimes this will include lingonberries or cloudberries or other berries that will start to appear with the start of Spring. They can also be served with lemon juice and sugar just like Irish Pancake Tuesday pancakes.
At one level, the Swedish waffle is like the pancake of Shrove Tuesday. It is the occasion when we traditionally would have finished the winter chores and begin the spring/summer with waffles. Incidentally, the Swedish, Irish and English words for pancake are almost identical... just one more Swedish contribution to world culture ;-)
In English, the feast is called Lady Day and was one of the 'quarter days' of the English Calendar. The reason that it is Lady Day (like Lady Chapel) and not Lady's Day is because it is in the old genitive form that no longer exists in modern English.
So, in the Gloucester Chronicle it reads: "Bituene vur leuedi day þe late misselmasse day, Þis folc bisette kaunterbury" and even in the Norwich Chronicle they seem to be a bit like the Swedish: "If our lady day falle on yt moneday yan ye forseid eleccion shal be holden ye werkday þan next folwyng" but then you also have examples like the Chronicle of Nottingham where they use the name Annunciation: "at ye Anounsiacion of oure Lady and Mechelmes". I like Middle English. It makes my spelling look good!
In fact, the Annunciation was the first day of the year in several senses. In the religious sense it is the moment when the Redemption began. In the 'secular' world, it was actually the first day in England up until the time when the calendar of Pope Gregory XIII took over from the Julian Calendar. Some countries still have their tax year beginning around the start of April as a vestige of this and where the quarter days are still used they reflect a calendar year that begins at the end of March. In Tess of the d'Urbervilles it is mentioned as the day when the workers hired at Candlemas move on to their next job.
In Des Hannon's post last year we learned that the Irish call it the Feast Day of Mary in Spring or Lá Fhéile Muire san Earrach.
A Vestment Maker’s Birthday Present for Pope Benedict XVI - *We are very grateful indeed to Mrs Clare Short of DiClara Vestments for sharing with NLM this account of her recent meeting with Pope Emeritus Benedict XV...
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