Today is Ascension Day, and it is a public holiday in Sweden. The Swedish word for today is Kristi himmelsfärdsdagen or Kristiflygare, which translates loosely as Christ Flying Day. Yet another example of the literalness of the Swedish language, this day signifies the bible story of Jesus Christ ascending (or flying) to heaven.
Unlike some countries that moved the celebration to the following Sunday, Sweden celebrates Ascension Day on the actual Thursday. This gives rise to another Swedish concept – the ‘squeeze day’. Since Thursday is a holiday, and Saturday is a work-free day for most, Friday gets squeezed between them and is also taken as a day off by most people. That makes this weekend a lovely long weekend, often signifying the beginning of summer. In previous times, today was also called ‘barärmdagen’ – or ‘bare arm day’ – as women started to wear clothes that exposed their arms.
This weekend is not religiously observed by most Swedes. Being a secular country, time is usually spent outdoors if the weather permits. Some Swedes go to their summer houses, or sail the waterways on their boats. Others meet friends, sit in outdoor cafes, or carry out sporting activities. In years when travel is permitted, this is also a popular weekend to fly off for a four-day break in, for example, Barcelona, Nice or Palma.
Soon it’s the weekend! A collective sigh of relief falls over the Swedish population, at least those who are not forced to work Saturdays and Sundays of course.
A weekend means relaxation and family time. It means late nights and parties. It means sports activities with the kids. It means sleeps-in and late breakfasts. It means cultural activities. It means computer game or TV series marathons. It means sledging and skating, drinking hot rose-hip soup.
Weekends mean so many different things to different people.
And it means a very Swedish concept: Fredagsmys
‘Fredagsmys’ loosely translated as ‘Friday Cosying’, is a modern ritual in Sweden. It is when friends and families gather together to mark the end of the working week and get ready for the approaching week. Traditions are different depending on if children are involved but one common denominator seems to be that food is easy and quick to make. Friday night is a big taco and pizza night in other words.
Gathering around food for cosy family evenings has a long tradition in Sweden. In the 1800’s and 1900’s something called ‘Söndagsfrid’ (Sunday peace) was popular. Then in the 1970’s ‘kvällsgott’ (Evening Goodies) became a concept.
The concept ‘fredagsmys’ became popularised in a high-profile advertising campaign for crisps. With the perky slogan ”Now it’s the end of the week, it’s time for Friday cosying”, (really, it’s perky in Swedish), they captured the Swedish market and encouraged the consumer to devour potato chips on Friday nights.
So how does your Friday night look? What kind of cosying are you planning?