A Swedish Tradition I Can Fully Embrace

by Kevin Burton

   So Friday night is taco night in Sweden. 

   Who knew?  I’m so up for that!

   It’s part of a longstanding tradition in Sweden called cozy Friday, writes Maddy Savage on www.bbc.com. It is a relaxing way to end the work week and spend time with family.

   “For the past three decades, supermarket-bought taco shell or tortilla kits have been a go-to Friday night dish in Sweden,” Savage writes. “And tacos have become the core symbol of a much-loved Nordic concept called fredagsmys, or ‘cozy Friday.’”

   “Instead of staying late at the office, or going out for drinks with colleagues, fredagsmys is about embracing a softer end to the working week, by heading home early to enjoy a feel-good, no-frills meal, followed by crisps or sweets on the sofa,” Savage writes. “Families usually watch TV or a movie together, with blankets and candles brought in as essential accessories during the long, dark winter.”

   “A study for a food delivery firm last year suggested 98 percent of Swedes enjoy fredagsmys at least once a month, and the majority would choose a ‘cozy Friday’ above any other activity, including a gig, a cinema night, exercising and even sex,” Savage writes.

   “This might come as a surprise to those in awe of Sweden’s famously healthy, outdoors-focused lifestyle. But fredagsmys has become a deep-rooted ritual that affords Swedes a weekly treat, while upholding the country’s strong family values and obsession with work-life balance,” Savage writes.

   The only American equivalent to cozy Friday that comes to mind is the old stories about people turning down dates on Saturday nights so they could stay home and watch the Carol Burnett show.

   “The reason the Carol Burnett Show did so well in the ratings is because people were looking for that comfort zone when the whole family sat around and watched television and enjoyed it,” said the brilliant comic, the late Tim Conway, who was a big part of the show’s success. 

   Comfort zone, tacos with family. How can you beat that?

   In an era of viral hatred on social media, the taco is one thing that gets nearly universal praise. A taco is practically legal tender in the United States.

   “Nobody is sure exactly how or when fredagsmys was formally conceptualized, but the term made its way into the Swedish dictionary in 2006,” Savage writes.

   “Tacos slowly took off as the fredagsmys meal of choice in the 1990s, when Sweden bounced back from a financial crisis and embraced a more global outlook,” Savage reports. “Tortillas became a hit because they offered a seemingly exotic alternative that was still fast and easy to prepare.”

    “In Sweden, taco kits typically include ready-made shells or tortillas alongside packets of pre-mixed spices and tubs of ready-to-dip salsa or guacamole,” Savage writes. “Swedes have also put their own unique spin on the meal, with cucumbers, nuts, yoghurt and even bananas sometimes laid out as alternative toppings.”

   That latter I present to you in the interest of full disclosure. Feel free to join me in skipping the cucumber and banana tacos.

   Fredagsmys marks a symbolic change from the work week to the weekend in Sweden.  

   “While spending Friday nights on the sofa might not sound so appealing after months of staying home during the pandemic, fredagsmys holds a special place in Swedes’ hearts, precisely because it’s a weekly, rather than daily, activity,” Savage writes.

   “In a nation obsessed with work-life balance, most people clock off by 5 p.m., and make plenty of time for hobbies. So, weeknights are often dedicated to activities designed to boost wellbeing. Some 53 percent of adults in Sweden spend at least two hours a week exercising,” Savage writes.

   “Despite record immigration that has brought in new cultural influences from around the world, and a boom in app-based food delivery services, demand for pre-packaged Mexican-inspired food has continued to grow.”

   Jonas Engman, an ethnographer at Stockholm University, believes fredagsmys has become an ‘institutionalized ritual’ in Sweden, especially among its middle classes, which are growing rapidly.

   “So, to me, it’s very hard in the coming decade or two, to see that this is going to disappear,” Engman said. 

   “So, next time you’re feeling guilty about a Friday night spent on the sofa, you can reassure yourself you’re merely embracing a deep-rooted Nordic cultural concept that promotes relaxation and time with loved ones,” Savage writes. “Just don’t forget to do something healthier for the rest of the week.”

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