In the early Spring, we celebrate Fastelavn on the Sunday or Monday before Ash Wednesday and Lent begins.
Fastelavn is an old Danish tradition dating back to medieval times. The children dress up as anything the fancy, and they hit a barrel ’ Slå katten af tønden’ (hit the cat out of the barrel) ‘piñata style’, to ward off evil spirits. In the old days, a real cat was put inside the barrel (the cat representing the ‘dark side’) and the barrel was battered until the cat died (or escaped being chased down the street) – not very hyggeligt! Today, thankfully, Fastelavn is a much less barbaric affair; there is only a painted cat or a sticker of a cat on the barrel, and it is usually full of candy for the kids.
Afterward, we eat Fastelavns Boller (custard pastry rolls). These were served because during the fast, you weren’t allowed to eat white bread (wheat) so you had a feast on the days leading up to the fast and on the Tuesday you ate ‘white rolls’ – back then they were stuffed with raisins and boiled. Today they are filled with sugar, custard, jam and nice yummy stuff. Did you see our Fastelavns bolle tasting here? Also, watch this space as I will share our version of the Famous Fastelavnsbolle this weekend.
Later in the afternoon, the children all dressed up in their chosen costume, go from door to door, doing a type of ‘trick or treating’ we call ‘Slik eller ballade’ (‘Candy or trouble’) where they sing the Fastelavn song to the people who open the door. The song goes like this:
It’s very also very hyggeligt planning what outfit to wear on the day, going to school all dressed up, and having fun with friends and family. Today some school have competitions of the best costume, so people do tend to get very inventive.
I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about our traditions here in Denmark! I love that we still stick to the old traditions, and many of the things I do today with my girls, were things I did as a child myself. Do you celebrate Fastelavn where you live? Or something similar?? Do share, I love to hear what you do in your country for hygge!