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How “Taco Friday” became a popular Swedish tradition

4 min read

Fredagsmys, or “Cozy Friday”, is a popular beloved Swedish tradition. In the Scandinavian country, families stay home on Friday night, watch TV, and eat Tex-Mex-style tacos. This dinner choice is so common that, for most Swedes, the so called Cozy Friday is also know as Taco Fredag, in english Taco Friday.

However, the cultural classic that is Swedish taco doesn’t actually have that much heritage behind it and was born out of a successful marketing campaign.
In 1990, the country was emerging from a financial crisis, and Swedes were eager to spend again and try new experience. Around the same time, government deregulation of television allowed advertising for the first time and, curious fact, prior to that, Swedes had only seen on-screen ads in cinemas.
The Swedish chips company OLW popularized the slogan “Now it’s cozy Friday time” in its commercials and, still today, it’s probably that most Swedes can still hum the jingle by heart. This is widely believed to be also the origin of the term “Fredagsmys”, and in 2007, it was even adopted into the Swedish dictionary.
Despite chips are still part of many Swedes’ Cozy Friday routine, it’s Tex-Mex that truly benefited from the idea of staying in and eating processed foods on the sofa. Old El Paso, which had been attempting to break into the market in the 1980s, experienced success as its ads demonstrated taco assembly.
Meanwhile, the Swedish spice company Nordfalks, which marketed their Tex-Mex products to appeal to a local audience, eventually changed its name to Santa Maria due to the popularity of its tortillas and tacos. Their TV spots suggested tacos as a staple of Cozy Fridays, and for Swedes, who were already used to smörgåsbord, potluck-style meals, piled onto one plate, tacos were something new and exciting, but also familiar.
As a result, soon grocers and restaurants rallied around the idea, promoting Cozy Friday with discounts and take-out specials.

Despite Tex-Mex was a hot American import, once it arrived, it morphed, becoming infused with Swedish food culture. Soon lot of local recipes emerged, such as taco pie (also available in frozen food aisles), taco soup, taco pizza, taco burgers and anything where you could add the packaged spice mix. Americans might recognize the ground meat, soft or hard tortilla shells, peppers, onion, tomatoes, and guacamole of Swedish tacos, but not necessarily the cucumber, peanuts, pineapple, and yoghurt sauces that Swedes added to suit their own cultural tastes.
Thus Tacos have become known as something classically Swedish. Cucumbers, for istance, which are perhaps the most unusual ingredient, reflect a particularly local tradition: historically, Sweden’s summer months were jokingly called “cucumber time,” and cucumbers were ubiquitous on most dinner tables. It may be pickled, sliced and doused with vinegar and salt, or atop a salad, but also a topping on kebab pizza, another popular national dish imported and adapted for the Swedish taste.

In any case, over the decades, Fredagsmys has become a national institution. A respectable Cozy Friday is made up of a number of crucial features and pre-requisites include a comfy sofa, fluffy clothes, friends and family, board games, and something good to watch on TV. And then there’s the food: Tacos are of course the preferred meal, but it can be anything eaten by hand such as burgers, pizza, caloric processed snacks, or pick-and-mix candies (a national obsession that is also indulged on Lördagsgodis, or Saturday sweets).
As a family tradition, Taco Fridays haven’t changed much over time.
On current days, If you walk into any supermarket, you’ll find an incredible Tex-Mex section, sometimes even larger than the baked-goods aisle. And in fact market research shows that Sweden is now the highest per capita consumer of Mexican food in Europe, along with Norway, which practices Taco Fridays too.
And, of course, thanks to tacos, pizza, candy, chips, and beer and other caloric pleasures, Cozy Fridays has its mental health benefits. In Sweden, family meals are less frequent than in other Nordic countries, so tacos are a convenient meal that allows people to spend more quality time together. And It’s not about increasing people body standard, but family standard, because It’s healthy to have a family and someone to live with and to share foods and traditions.

Images from web – Google Research

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