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This Sunday, the Danes will dress their kids up, bash barrels with wooden sticks and eat cream cakes. This article was published three year ago, but the whacky tradition hasn't changed!
Fastelavn (pronounced Fas-tuh-lown) is as common as bikes or Carlsberg for the Danes, but for recent transplants to the country it can be a little strange.
Celebrators can eat, drink, and be merry – all while costumed and playing traditional games such as ‘slå katten af tønden,’ which literally means hitting the cat from the barrel.
Though in recent times bleeding heart animal rights activists have started filling the barrels with candy and treats, back in the day folks would actually place live cats in the barrels and proceed to smash the barrel to pieces until a Cat King and Cat Queen were crowned.
Like any good Scandinavian holiday, its origins included other socially acceptable instances of flogging: Traditionally, excited children would repeatedly whack their parents to get them to wake up on Fastelavn morning.
Excited young men would also do some hitting, but it would be directed at young women as a means to make them more fertile. After all, nothing says fertility like a sound beating with a flowery wreath.
Admittedly, the tradition is continued in recent times so that children can dress up and eat candy: But most high school and university students do not need an excuse to put on a silly costume.
For more information on this ritual read the wikipedia article here.
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