Moving to a new country means the introduction to new traditions. Fastelavn is another Scandinavian tradition that was new to me when we came here and the first year I was very curious about why supermarkets were suddenly selling small wooden barrels. In England we traditionally eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday before Lent begins but here the Danes celebrate Fastelavn. It is a real ‘go big, or go home’ kind of celebration. Fastelavn is celebrated on the Sunday or Monday before Ash Wednesday (seven weeks before Easter Sunday) and is a real carnival for children.
Children dress up in costumes or cat masks, and a big wooden barrel with a black cat on the outside is suspended, which they can bash with impunity until the bottom falls out scattering the sweets inside. Being Denmark everyone is a winner! The child who administers the final bash before the bottom comes out is crowned the cat king or queen but everyone takes a share of the booty.
This is known as slå katten af tønden (hit the cat out of the barrel) and in olden days the barrel actually contained a cat, which would then be chased away signifying the banishment of evil.
Great fun nowadays for everyone, including cats!
Tomorrow I shall share my favourite thing about Fastelavn.