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The Danish holiday of Fastelavn February 26

Museum of Danish History  | Published on Monday, February 6, 2017
Fastelavn FEB 26 | The Danish holiday of Fastelavn

Other Danish holidays are not as familiar to Americans. Fastelavn is a Danish celebration held on the last day before Lent. In the United States, its best known as Mardi Gras. Fastelavn originates from the Roman Catholic tradition of celebrating in the days before Lent, but when Denmark became Protestant, the celebration became less religious.

A special tradition arose in Denmark during Medieval times called "beating the cat out of the barrel", which resembles a piñata. Folks believed that the spirit of winter was a black cat that had to be driven away before spring could come. Historically, a black cat was placed in a barrel and villagers, who were dressed in costumes so that the evil spirit could not recognize them, beat the barrel until it splintered. The frantic cat would then fall to the floor and run off, and so winter was banished.

In Denmark today, children dress in costume (much like Halloween). They beat a barrel that is full of candy and trinkets. When the barrel breaks there's a mad scramble to collect as much as one can! The one who bashes the barrel open is crowned the "Cat Queen" and whoever knocks down the last piece of the barrel is named "Cat King". Children also go from door to door in their costumes, singing a special song called "fastelavn er mit navn". For this, they receive candy and money. And if they don't, they play tricks!

Fastelavnsboller is a delicious dessert that is traditionally eaten on this holiday, and which can be a lot of fun.

For more information please use this link: Danish Holidays & Celebrations - Museum of Danish America