Soon it will be Fat Day, the day when most people take the opportunity to enjoy a good semla. But why do we celebrate this day, and where does the tradition of eating buns come from?
Shrove Tuesday falls 47 days before Easter, which is why the date differs from year to year. Along with Pork Sunday and Blue Monday – in Scania called “bullamóndag” – Fat Day begins a 40-day fast. Fasting was a Catholic tradition that would remind of Jesus and his suffering, but also a way to show that one repented of one’s sins.
In 2022, Fatty Day falls on March 1.
Origin of Semla
Fat Tuesday was thus the last of the three days of Lent, and eating well and a lot was a way of preparing for this period – hence the tradition of eating rolls. The semla we have today was designed in the 1900s and has its model in the hot wall, a high quality pastry from the 18th century.
The hot wall was, like the semlan, a baked bun filled with almond paste. Its name is probably a phonetic translation from the German “heisse wecke” which means “warm wedges”. This is the reason why buns often have a triangular lid: the idea is that it should resemble a wedge.
The word semla comes from the German “semel” and the Latin “simila”, which means “fine flour”. Both white flour, sugar and whipped cream were very unusual in the Swedish farming community, which meant that the fastlag bun was a delicacy that could not be made very often.