This weekend through today have been a bit of a fastelavn bonanza…one celebration at the embassy, one downtown with friends, and one at school…. let it not be said that we didn’t live up the holiday.There’s a little more on the background of the holiday on the other blog from our first year here, and speaking of which, did you see the little video that I dug up from deep in my phone archives from that year? I thought I’d share a few more pictures from the celebration we attended downtown since if you’ll look closely, our daughter is still wearing the same costume that she did her very first year here. I should note that with the fastelavn rotations often including multiple events and our own Halloween celebrations doing the same, costumes here are in high demand so we have given this little ladybug outfit a run for its money. Over the past three years, it’s been incorporated in all of those events, each time a little differently. What used to be a full dress is now barely a mini-skirt, and she still loves it just as much. Maybe it will be a crop top by next halloween?The purchase of that costume a a bit of a fluke – typical spazzy working mother that year, I only figured out the whole fastelavn thing the day before. I literally knocked on the glass of the local toy store and pleaded for them to let me in two minutes after they closed. No pinterest costume projects for me! I was totally “that mom” who barged in, frantically doing a 360 review of the store and grabbing the one thing I thought would work. Good thing it did – I have no idea how much it was but whatever the price, we’ve certainly gotten every kroner’s worth since.
A few things about Fastelavn you might not know:
- Fastelavn is basically the Danish equivalent of Mardi Gras or Carnival, they go big on the sweets and pastries but there really doesn’t seem to be as into the punitive, self sacrificing Ash Wednesday that follows…
- It’s primarily a children’s celebration but parents get in on the activities mostly to socialize with other parents
- The main activity involves kids beating a suspended wooden barrel, somewhat like a piñata – when you break it open, there are treats like popcorn and fruit and sometimes candy inside. It can take forever to break it open if there are a lot of young kids and people have all the patience it takes – there is no “hurrying it along” or “adults helping out” or “let me get you started”. If you’re an adult who is watching, you best bring a thermos of coffee or something stronger because you’ll be there awhile.
- The barrel is decorated with cats because in the good old days there used to be cats in it and they would beat the barrel until they lept out… or worse. How’s that for a child friendly activity?
- If you’re the one to break the barrel open, you can be crowned King or Queen of Cats (what is it with the cats?)
- They other things children can beat are their parents….they decorate switches and branches with more cats and tissue paper. They can beat you in the morning to wake you up until you relent and give them more pastries and sweets.
- Speaking of pastries, the starlet of any festivities are “fastelavnsboller”, pastries filled with cream in various variations – see some from today up on Instagram!
- There’s a little song that all children know about causing trouble and rabble rousing, when they sing it, you must give them more pastries.
So there you have it: costumes, beating, cats and pastries….that’s the holiday in a nutshell but it’s great fun. Our first year we were still catching on, but by now, we’ve come to love it and anticipate for it. Now how do we bring our own version to the US next year?
If you find this Fastelavn thing kind of interesting, you can read a little more on some of these local blogs: