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What Are the Disturbing Origins of Sweden’s “Saturday Candy” Tradition?

Sweden's "Saturday Candy" tradition, a sweet weekly ritual, has a dark past rooted in wartime rationing and controversial medical experiments. This juxtaposition of innocence and history's shadows offers a fascinating glimpse into how cultural habits evolve. How did these origins shape the tradition we see today? Join us as we uncover the layers behind this sugary custom.

Saturday is a sweet day for many Swedish families, but the dark history of lördagsgodis might just sour you on maintaining the tradition.

Lördagsgodis, which means "Saturday candy," is a custom in which people (particularly children) indulge in sweet stuff on Saturdays, as long as they refrain during the rest of the week. Just as their parents did in earlier decades, Swedish children often save up their allowance and load up on pick-and-mix candy.

Since the 1950s, many Swedish families have embraced the tradition of “lördagsgodis” – only having candy on Saturdays – but this custom has a dark past.
Since the 1950s, many Swedish families have embraced the tradition of “lördagsgodis” – only having candy on Saturdays – but this custom has a dark past.

Although lördagsgodis sounds quaint and harmless, this tradition grew out of the mistreatment of hundreds of intellectually disabled patients at a hospital in Lund, Sweden. Beginning in 1946, these patients were forced to consume 24 pieces of caramel candy every day for three years, in order for the state and confectionery companies to determine how much the public could safely consume.

By the end of the study, dozens of the patients suffered from devastating tooth decay. The government began recommending that people eat sweets just once a week, and the lördagsgodis tradition was born.

Chew on this:

  • The common cold is the only disease that occurs more often than tooth decay.

  • Babies get the bacteria to fight tooth decay from their mothers; they are not born with it.

  • Fluoride, which can be found in toothpaste and local water systems, helps to harden teeth and prevent tooth decay.

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    • Since the 1950s, many Swedish families have embraced the tradition of “lördagsgodis” – only having candy on Saturdays – but this custom has a dark past.
      Since the 1950s, many Swedish families have embraced the tradition of “lördagsgodis” – only having candy on Saturdays – but this custom has a dark past.