Category Archives: Feast of the Annunciation

Waffle Day

Gather round the table: tradition would have us eat waffles today. It’s a tradition around which folks generally rally with pleasure, for is there anything quite like a waffle? So simple, yet so delicious. And the reasoning behind our waffle-eating today is such a roundabout and circuitous one. Allow me to tell you the story:

It begins with the Feast of the Annunciation, which typically is on the 25th of March. But, when the feast coincides with Holy Week (this year it fell on Palm Sunday), Holy Week takes precedence and the Feast of the Annunciation is moved to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter, which is where we’re at today. The Feast of the Annunciation is our first step toward the annual celebration of Christmas, for it marks the day that the archangel Gabriel visited Mary to deliver the news that she was to bear a child, a son, and that that child would be the light of the world, the son of God. March 25th is precisely nine months to the nativity.

It is traditionally a day of contemplative prayer, but early in the history of this holiday, it took on a nickname from its connection to Mary: Lady Day. Indeed, many people still call the Feast of the Annunciation Lady Day. And here’s where the waffles come in: In Sweden, the day is called Vårfrudagen, which essentially translates to “Our Lady Day.” But Vårfrudagen, in some Swedish dialects, is awfully close in both spelling and pronunciation to Våffeldagen, which translates to “Waffle Day.” Swedes, as a result of this misunderstanding, have for centuries been eating waffles on Lady Day. It’s a tradition that has spilled over to wherever Swedes have left their mark, this annual excuse to eat waffles at any time of day on Vårfrudagen––breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The waffles in Sweden today are typically served with whipped cream and lingonberries or cloudberries. However and whenever you serve them (Waffles for dinner? Yeah!), enjoy. Do not be afraid. Perhaps you, too, have found favor with God.

Image: “Stillleben mit Zinntellern, Steinkrug und Waffeln” (Still Life with Pewter Plates, Stein and Waffles) by Georg Flegel. Oil on wood, 17th century [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Our Lady of Perpetual Waffles

WafelsBakken

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, which in earlier times was better known as Lady Day, and for many, the day still is known as Lady Day. I rather like calling it that, for it calls to mind the wonderful Billie Holiday (whose birthday happens to be coming up: April 7, 1915), but that’s another story. Lady Day marks the day that the angel Gabriel came to Mary to deliver the news that she was to bear a child, a son, and that that child would be the light of the world, the son of God.

The Christmas season is so special, so important in the round of the year, that references to it pop up throughout the year. Here, today, we have our first nod to it: with the Annunciation we are nine months from the Nativity. Its typical date is the 25th of March, but on those years when Lady Day falls during Holy Week, which it did this year (it was Good Friday), the feast is moved to the Monday following the Second Sunday of Easter, which is where we are at today. Tradition would have us eat waffles for our supper tonight. This, as far as most can tell, is a tradition based purely in linguistics. The tradition comes to us from Sweden, where Lady Day is known as Vårfrudagen. This translates to “Our Lady Day.” But Vårfrudagen, in some Swedish dialects, is awfully close in both spelling and pronunciation to Våffeldagen, which translates to “Waffle Day.” Swedes, as a result of this misunderstanding, have for centuries been eating waffles on Lady Day. If you need an excuse to serve waffles for supper tonight, there you go. You’re welcome. In Sweden, waffles are eaten at any time of day on Vårfrudagen: breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They are typically served with whipped cream and lingonberries or cloudberries.

Aside from the waffles and aside from the Christian celebration of the Annunciation, the traditional March 25 date of this holiday has long held significance in the calendar. March 25 was, for many, in the Old Style Julian Calendar, New Year’s Day. The 25th came on the heels of the Vernal Equinox: a time of new beginnings. The equinox still today brings the traditional Persian new year, Nowruz, a celebration that has only ended but a few days ago. But the 25th of March has long been considered a mystical day in Judeo Christian tradition. It was considered by many through history as the first day of creation, the day of the expulsion from Eden, the day the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, the day of the beheading of John the Baptist, and the day of Christ’s crucifixion.

We may be nine months to the Nativity but we are nine months, as well, to the Winter Solstice. In the cyclical year, this is the season of opening and rebirth. The open earth receives the seeds that burst forth into new growth. Mary conceives her child at this season magically, having “known not a man,” just as the earth goddess of the old ways did at this same time of year. And so the Vernal Equinox brings both rebirth (the Green Man, leafing out in plants across the landscape) and conception (the Sun Child, who will be born at the Winter Solstice). The connections between Pagan and Christian roots are deep indeed.

Most importantly, though: W A F F L E S !

 

Image: “Wafels Bakken” (Waffle Baking) by Basile de Loose. Oil on canvas, 1853 [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Our Lady of Waffles

Annunication

Just a few days past the Vernal Equinox each year comes the Feast of the Annunciation, which in earlier times was known best as Lady Day. It marks the day that the angel Gabriel came to Mary to deliver the news that she was to bear a child, a son, and that that child would be the light of the world, the son of God. We are nine months, at this point, to the Nativity.

We are nine months, as well, to the Winter Solstice, and this date has held significance for a very long time, long before Christianity. In the cyclical year, this is the season of opening (apero, as mentioned in our previous chapter, which gives its name to April), and rebirth. Mary conceives her child at this season magically, having “known not a man,” just as the earth goddess did at this same time of year. And so the Vernal Equinox brings both rebirth (the Green Man, leafing out in plants across the landscape) and conception (the Sun Child, who will be born at the Winter Solstice). The connections between Pagan and Christian roots are deep indeed.

March 25 was, for many, in the Old Style Julian Calendar, New Year’s Day. Again,  this is all relative to the Vernal Equinox and the idea of fresh beginnings. And still the traditional Persian new year, Nowruz, is at this time of year. It begins on the equinox and continues on for 13 celebratory days. Mostly, the 25th of March has long been considered a mystical day in Judeo Christian tradition. It was considered by many through history as the first day of creation, the day of the expulsion from Eden, the day the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, the day of the beheading of John the Baptist, and the day of Christ’s crucifixion.

English folk custom considers it unlucky when Lady Day also happens to fall on Good Friday, which does happen on occasion. When it does, the Feast of the Annunciation is transferred to the Monday following the Second Sunday of Easter. But not many customs are associated with Lady Day. It is mostly set aside as a day of prayer. In Sweden, however, perhaps the most unlikely place for a Marian celebration, there is a long standing tradition of eating waffles on Lady Day, where the day is also known as Våffeldagen. Waffles are eaten at any time of day on Våffeldagen, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, served with whipped cream and lingonberries or cloudberries.

It is said that this waffle celebration all stems from one big misunderstanding. The Christian celebration of Lady Day is called, in Swedish, Our Lady Day, or Vårfrudagen… which, especially in some Swedish dialects, is awfully close in spelling and pronunciation to Våffeldagen, which translates to “Waffle Day.” And for centuries now, in addition to acknowledging Mary’s yes to the angel, Swedes all over the world have been eating waffles on the 25th of March. This, I say, is as good a reason as any to do the same.

 

Image: San Domenico Annunciation by Benozzo Gozzoli, tempera on wood, c. 1449, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

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