Like most Carnival celebrations, Fastelavn is celebrated on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday…leading up to Lent. But like many things in modern-day Denmark, there is less of a religious connection these days. Also known as Nordic Halloween, Fastelavn is a time for children to dress up in costumes and play games.
What would a Danish celebration be without a traditional Danish pastry?
Enter the Fastelavnsbolle (Carnival Buns). Yum.
There is also the traditional game of Slå katten af tønden (hit the cat out of the barrel) which is basically a piñata with (what my daughters would tell you is) a cruel twist. A tønden is a barrel, made of wood and very difficult to open. Historically, there was a real black cat in the barrel, and beating the barrel was superstitiously considered a protection against evil. These days, no cat; just candy, oranges and goodie bags.
Emmery’s, one of our favorite bakeries in Copenhagen, hosted a Fastelavn party with free juice and Fastelavnsbolle for the kids and a game of Slå katten af tønden. They hung up a barrel, full of candy, and all the kids took turns hitting it with a stick. This went on for quite some time and that barrel remained sturdy.
I am rather embarrassed to say, that the two little American children in the line (our kids) lost patience with this game rather quickly. The Danish children showed true determination when it came to hitting that barrel over and over again.
Delaying gratification: one of the many things I hope my kids will learn from the Danes.
However…even the Danes have waning tolerance for a stubborn barrel. Eventually, Brett and some of the other dads in the group were kindly asked to give the barrel a good whack.
Eventually, by the hands of a little girl dressed as Minnie Mouse, the barrel fell to the ground, treats were revealed and chaos ensued.
A few days later, the girls got to do this all over again at school. I didn’t witness it a second time, but am told that the barrel was much quicker to fall. So perhaps not all barrels are created equally? But we are new to this, so who knows?