The past weekend and few days before that had been kicking the Danish Mardi Gras into high gear. I missed out on part of it due to this weekend’s stomach flu, but we still managed to catch bits and pieces, mostly through diplo-tot’s school, and through the Embassy Party.
Called Fastelavn, this pretty much equates to a pre-Lent Carnival just like in many parts of the world -though interestingly, when Danish people will explain it to you, they always liken it to Halloween.
As you can imagine, it involves costumes…specifically lots of adorable kiddie costumes. Just like everything else here in Denmark, it’s pretty amazing how people adapt their costumes here to be outdoor and weather appropriate. When I dropped off the diplo-tot at school for their evening party (that incidentally parents weren’t really invited to – made me feel like I was dropping her off at her first dance!), the kiddies were all outside and didn’t bat an eye…
Part of the reason a lot of the party takes place outside (in addition to this being Denmark where just about everything takes place outside) is that a main feature is this pinata-like barrel thing. I don’t think it has a name, it just seems to be called “hit the barrel” or “hit the cat out of the barrel”. Its’ a wooden barrel with a small hole in the top, and back in the day, they used to do exactly what the name implied. Hit the barrel until you could get the cat to jump out. Seems a bit traumatic to me…These days, the kiddies come up with a thinner variation of a baseball bat and take turns bludgeoning it until the barrel falls apart (with toddlers, you can imagine this takes awhile) and goodies spring from the barrel. At forest school it was popcorn and oranges, and at the embassy it was hersheys’s and peanut butter cups and smarties and other favorites from home.
The other standard activity is to make “fastelavntris”, which are branch bunches decorated with clumps of tissue paper and feathers and other kind of spring time doo-dads. Generally, I consider a yard full of toddlers running around with branches a fine way to celebrate any holiday, but these branches originally had multiple purposes. Now they’re more decorative than anything else but earlier they used to be used (according to the brief history synopsis on wikipedia) for flogging the infertile, for flogging bachelors and virgins, and perhaps most importantly or frighteningly, flogging parents, until they gave in and gave their children the “fastelavnbollen” which are the carnival pastries here – big donut-type things filled with lots of cream (or sometimes, not so much). I didn’t get a good picture of the pastries but you see them in all the bakeries and all the fastelavn parties this time of year. So the implication is clear – next year, more pastries!