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February 10, 2018


FASTELAVN is a very old tradition in Denmark. More than 500 years ago, people used to fast for 40 days before Easter to remember the death of Jesus and his resurrection. Fastelavn was the last feast before the fast: a farewell to meat. Later, when people didn’t fast anymore, they kept the celebration but it became more like a feast welcoming spring and new life, and a farewell to winter darkness and all evil. It was a celebration for everyone: adults and children.
Today it is more a celebration for children, who dress up in COSTUMES.

An essential part of the celebration is the WOODEN BARREL. The barrel hangs on a rope and is decorated with black cats. Children hit the barrel with a bat, and in the end it falls apart, with candies falling to the ground for the kids to pick up and eat. The child who knocks out the bottom of the barrel and spills the sweets becomes the KATTEDRONNING (“Queen of Cats”), while the one who knocks off the last remaining board is crowned KATTEKONGE (“King of Cats”).
The BLACK CAT symbolized all evil and witchcraft in the old days. Historically, people put a real cat in the barrel, and beating both barrel and cat was considered a safeguard against evil. Thankfully, this is no longer done, but the black cat decorations are a reminder of this practice.

Another characteristic element is the FASTELAVNBOLLER, which is like a bun filled with cream and decorated with icing.

The FASTELAVNSRIS is a bundle of twigs tied together and decorated with cutouts of cats, whistles and treats. Traditionally, children get a Fastelavnsris on the morning of Fastelavn and use it to “flog” their parents in bed while singing the FASTELAVN SONG:

“Fastelavn er mit navn,
Boller vil jeg have,
Hvis jeg ingen boller får,
Så laver jeg ballade,
Boller op, boller ned,
Boller i min mave,
Hvis jeg ingen boller får,
Så laver jeg ballade!”

“Shrovetide is my name, I want buns,
if I don’t get any buns, I’ll make trouble,
buns up, buns down, buns in my tummy,
if I don’t get any buns, I’ll make  

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