Scandinavia’s Mardi Gras – How to celebrate Fastelavn like a Scandi!

by Scandinavian mum

Scandinavia’s Mardi Gras ‘Fastelavn’ is celebrated on the Sunday or Monday before Ash Wednesday, based on the Roman Catholic tradition of celebrating the days before Lent. It’s above everything a celebration for the children, with a carnival, sweet treats and decorations. Read on to see how to celebrate Fastelavn like a Scandinavian!

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Recoma Costume, children’s luxurious fancy dress and accessories

by Scandinavian mum

recoma_costume_queen_bee 004
Recoma Costume is made to order, luxury couture children’s costumes and special occasion wear. Think Venetian carnival costumes, hand-made beautiful costumes and accessories in precious fabrics, for magical dressing up and fancy dress parties. Remove the accessories and you are left with a exquisite formal party dress.

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Celebrate Fastelavn Sunday 10th February 2013

by Scandinavian mum

Shrove Tuesday (also known as Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Pancake Tuesday and Pancake Day) is in Denmark and Norway known as Fastelavn. It’s marked by eating fastelavnsboller on the Sunday before Lent. This year that’ll be tomorrow, Sunday 10th of February. In Sweden the day is called Fettisdagen and is generally celebrated by eating a type of pastry called semla on Tuesday 12th of February. Semla and Fastelavnsboller is in fact very similar, it’s wheat buns cut and filled with raspberry jam, marzipan and fresh cream.

Find a straight forward recipe for utterly yummy fastelavnsboller here. But no need to despair if you are not a born baker. There’s always the original deal on offer nearby. We’ll simply pop into Totally Swedish in London for some freshly baked semla by Bageriet London.

In Scandinavia we also combine the day with a carnival to celebrate the feast, with most nurseries having fancy dress parties. The Scandinavian homes will be decorated with highly decorative “Fastelavnris” in pretty vases, branches decorated with colourful feathers and so on. We usually allow the children to decorate it, and only imagination will set the limitations…
© Hjem og Familie

How to make your own Scandinavian Spring Decoration

by Scandinavian mum

The Scandinavian celebration Fastelavn the Sunday before Lent, similar to Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras and Carnival, will in 2012 be celebrated on Sunday the 19th of February. We would celebrate by baking Fastelavn Sweet Buns with cream, by having a Carnival and also by decorating our home with Fastelavnsris (originally a Norse tradition). Here is how you can make Fastelavnsris to decorate your home, symbolising the change from winter and hopes for a fruitful spring.

You will need a plain branch collected from the woodland, silk paper, feathers or fabric samples in lots of colours and a vase. Or do it the easy way, save some branches of the poor cherry tree that’s covered in snow out in the garden.

Picture source: vilmelinas liv

Scandinavian Easter traditions

by Scandinavian mum

Today many Scandinavians regards Easter as an extended weekend during which they have a chance to meet spring head on with lots of tulips, birch twigs and delicious food and sweets. Historically the Easter week, starting with Palm Sunday, was a time of great religious significance with an air of solemnity about it. Weddings and christenings were not considered appropriate, all places of entertainment including cinemas remained closed. It was considered highly unsuitable to pay anybody a visit.
With the modern society of today a lot of this has changed but as the Easter traditions are deeply rooted in the Scandinavian people some of it have survived even to this day.
Nurseries and schools are all closed this week and many people would be off work. Shops are closed from already early afternoon on Wednesday and doesn’t reopen before Tuesday the following week. So it’s important to stock up on food and beverage for the big family celebration. Still very important is that you would be gathered only with your closest during Easter, with many families travelling to their mountain cabin to enjoy the last snow. It’s all about spending time with your family, having sledging and ski competitions, indulging in chocolate and marzipan shaped as chicks, reading gossip magazines from last year, solving crosswords and playing boardgames like Yatzy. Eating lots of eggs throughout the week and also having a grand lamb dinner on Easter Saturday.

Eggs became such an important part of Easter beacuse of fasting, during which no eggs were allowed, it was a special treat to indulge in eggs without any restrictions.

Eggs were not only consumed, they were also painted to fight off bad spirits, a custom that has lived on to this day.
The custom of eating lamb comes from the Bible story of the Passover first celebrated by the Israelites in Egypt, which gave birth to the tradition of eating paschal lamb in the Mediterranean countries from where the custom has been adopted by the Scandinavian people.

The belief in witchcraft is the basis of another Easter tradition, crackers are let off on Easter night and great bonfires are lit. Firecrackers and fires were considered to be a proven method to keep witches at bay. There are still bonfires today.

So most important to remember as a tourist or newcommer in Scandinavia; Do all your shopping before noon on Wednesday the day before Maunday Thursday. Do not expect to see many people around. There is no tradition for egg hunts or the Easter bunny. Parents buy the Easter Eggs for their children and fill it up with grapes/raisins for their toddlers and sweets for older children. Freia melkesjokolade, Kvikk Lunch and Påskemarsipan is Norwegian must have Easter sweets.

Little Scandinavian wishes you a
God Påske!

Fastelavn, the Sunday before lent

by Scandinavian mum

Fastelavn in Scandinavia will be celebrated, depending on the country, either today or on Tuesday.
We celebrate with three important traditions; carnival, rich food and with decorating our homes with fastelavnsris, shown in the picture to the left.
During the period of carnival all nurseries and schools in Scandinavia celebrate in one way or the other. The youngest children have a day of carnival, dressing up and inviting their parents for morning coffee and the rich and delicious sweet buns with cream that we call “fastelavnsboller” or “semlor”.
Scandinavian fastelavn traditions also have their roots from before Christian times. Following old tradition the children rise at daybreak, arm themselves with Fastelavnsris, decorated birch branches, and go about the house trying to switch all the “lazy” people they can catch lying in bed. This curious custom of switching with branches doubtless originated in an ancient pagan rite of bringing into the village the fruitfulness of spring. It also symbolises the change from winter and hopes for a fruitful spring.
Nowaday families, nurseries and schools make their own “fastelavnsris”, decorating branches with bright coloured feathers or sparkling tinsel and paper streamers of red, orange, yellow and green. We also add flowers or other colourful and decorative items. And luckily lazy people do not have to fear a Sunday lie in any longer as the “fastelavnsris” is only a decorative item in a vase on the the table these days.


Fastelavnsboller is simply sweet buns filled with cream, served with a thin layer of icing sugar on top. Some also add jam together with the whipped cream. Tastes wonderful together with a cup of coffee for brunch or around tea time.

The sweet buns
150 gr butter
5 dl milk or water
50 gr fresh yeast
1 dl sugar
12-13 dl strong white flour
½ teaspoon cardamome
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon bakingpowder

The whipped cream
3 dl double cream
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp vanilla sugar

1. Melt the butter, add water/milk, warm until 38C.
2. Add salt and just a little sugar to the yeast to let the yeast melt.
3. Add water/butter and stir well. Add the rest of the sugar and almost all of the flour. Knead until you get a smooth dough, add more flour if necessary.
4. Let the dough rest and rise to double size. (time may vary depending on room temperature etc. Be patient!)
5. Knead again and cut the dough into 25 small pieces that you make into rolls. Put the rolls on a baking trey, cover with cling film and let them rise again for 20-30 minutes.
6. Bake at 230C for 10-15 minutes. Leave too cool.
7. Cut the sweet buns and fill it with whipped cream, jam or marzipan after taste. Sprinkle with icing sugar and enjoy!

Happy Fastelavn!