Happy Fastelavn!!

I hope you don’t love cats too much, because if so then this post may make you wary of the Danish people.

Godt, you decided to put aside your fondness for cats and continue læsning! That was a wise decision, because now you can learn about Fastelavn. This is one of my new favorite holidays and a long-standing Danish tradition. Fastelavn takes place the Søndag before Ash Onsdag; I guess it is a sort of Danish Mardi Gras or Fat Tirsdag-esque celebration, except better. People dress up in costumes, whack barrels and eat sweets, pastries and yummy food (see Claudia, dressed as a cat, and Anders, dressed as a security guard). Although nowadays many of the festivities are geared towards kids, it is still a popular holiday and excuse to drink and be merry.

Claudia and Anders in costume
Claudia and Anders in costume

So, how do cats fit into this? And why should PETA be upset (if they found out about it)? It all has to do with Fastelavn’s history. One of the main events of a Fastelavn celebration is massacring a wooden barrel, much like a piñata. Nowadays the barrel is filled with candy, but originally the barrel was filled with a black cat. Despite the barrel’s contents, or perhaps because of it, people would take turns hitting the barrel with a bat. The partygoers would take turns until the bottom fell out of the barrel and the cat would escape (or fall, depending on its state…). But the destruction doesn’t end there! People keep hitting the barrel until every last piece of wood has fallen off. Whoever made the bottom of the barrel fall out is called the Cat Dronning, and the Cat Konge is whoever knocked down the last piece. What wonderful anger management!

My host family threw a Fastelavn fest for the other DIS students and their families who live in our town. Everybody came dressed up in costumes, much like Halloween. To determine who got to hit the barrel first, we had a race to eat a long string of licorice (see Michaela and Mia) without our hands—whoever finished it første won!

Michaela and Mia
Michaela and Mia

Hitting the barrel took a lot longer than I thought, but the Cat Queen and Cat King were finally crowned. Fortunately there were no catastrophes, even though the bat did fly out of somebody’s hand at one point!

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After the excitement was over, we all made our way inside to enjoy some Fastelavnsbolle, the traditional pastries made for Fastelavn, and coffee/tea. The rest of the day was spent enjoying each other’s company, another pastime that the Danes are particularly good at.

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So, when I bring back Fastelavn to the U.S. I hope PETA doesn’t mind the significance of the cat for this holiday. Until then, HAPPY FASTELAVN!

Godt (goht) = good

Læsning  (lehsening) = reading

Søndag (soondag) = Sunday

Onsdag = Wednesday

Tirsdag = Tuesday

Dronning = Queen

Konge = King

Fest = party

Første (furst) = first

Fastelavnsbolle (festelauns-bolle)= Fastelavn bun

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