Fastelavn in Denmark

Fastelavn in Denmark
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Before I had children and  living in Denmark, fastelavn in my head was just a sister or a cousin to halloween and to be honest I was never a halloween person so fastelavn was never something I´d paid much attention to, well with the exception of the fastelavns buns and the fastelavn song, those two are my favourite.

This tradition was done by the children being dressed up in their costumed and they would go from door to door singing the song while shaking a small container in the hope of getting a coin or two to tuck into their container or perhaps a fastelavn bun.

fastelavn er mit navn, boller vil jeg have, hvis jeg ingen boller får, så laver jeg ballade. “penge op, penge i min dåse, hvis jeg ingen penge får, så kommer jeg til påske”.

I really loved this song before I even knew the words and what is was actually saying.


Fastelavn er mit navn,
boller vil jeg have.
Hvis jeg ingen boller får,
så laver jeg ballade.
Boller op, boller ned boller i min mave.
Hvis jeg ingen boller får,
så laver jeg ballade.

English translation:

Fastelavn is my name,
buns I want.
If I dont get no buns,
I will make trouble.
Buns up, buns down
buns in my tummy.
If I dont get no buns,
I will make trouble.

“Traditional Danish buns with a custard-type cream and chocolate icing are always eaten by children or adults on Fastelavn day or days leading up to the celebration.


One would think that after living in Denmark for omteen years I would still figure out the meaning of the fastelavn celebration but I actually get a better understanding of this tradition as my girls gets older and realize it is more than dressing them up in their favourite costumes .I come to realized that fastelavn is more than a relative to Halloween and that its quite grown up.

Fastelavn is  celebrated seven weeks before Easter Sunday, Which falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon!


Fastelavn is the name for Carnival in the historically Lutheran nations of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe islands.

The first full moon is usually after  the spring equinox, which is between February 1st and March 7th.


During  the 1800s fastelavn was an adult party where the adults drank alcohol in large amounts, ate meat, partied, danced and get dressed up, to beat a cat out of a barrel by riding a horse. Historically there was a real black cat in the barrel, and beating the barrel was superstitiously considered a safeguard against evil.

The custom of beating the cat out of the barrel is supposed to have come to Denmark with the Dutch farmers.

Back in the days, a  cat would symbolised evil.


Today, on the other hand the barrel is filled with candy or other treats, and the cat are made of paper, fastened with adhesive tape on the barrel.

The day is mainly celebrated on a Sunday or Monday  in the church it was celebrated on a Sunday,Which involves the beating or hitting of a barrel and after wards one would drink warm cocoa and eats fastelavn buns.

At my daughters school and pre-school the day was celebrated on a Thursday, Friday and  Saturday with diverse activities arranged by their sport club.


This  Traditional events include slå katten af tønden/“hit the cat out of the barrel”, which is somewhat similar to using a piñata.

The Danes used a wooden barrel, which is full of candies along with the image of a cat on it.

After the candy pours out, the game continues until the entire barrel is broken.

The one who knocks down the bottom of the barrel, making all the candy spill out, becomes kattedronning /“queen of cats”; the one who knocks down the last piece of the barrel becomes kattekonge/“king of cats”.

My daughter was crowned the princess of the cats …… for hitting the barrel but not all the barrel.

Beating the “cat out of the barrel” or  Slå katten af tønden can definitely take a while.So patience is surely a virtue.

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Primarily  fastelavn is mainly  a celebration for children, whilst few adults might chooses to get involved.


Today the children costumes are  sweet princesses, powerful superheroes etc.

Back in the during the fastelavn  celebrations  adults were  dressed  up as bear, devil or something very scary in order to scare  evil away.

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