Sunday, February 17, 2013

In Denmark They Beat the Cat out of the Barrel!

In Denmark They Beat the Cat out of the Barrel!

If someone in Denmark told me "let's go beat a cat out of the barrel and have fun"..... I would say "get off, weirdo"!!

But this was not the case in 1500-1600s. Back then I would probably have said "yeah! let's go for it!"

That's what they call Fastelavn in Denmark. The English closest equivalent would be "Shrovetide". On this day a barrel with an alive cat inside would be hung up and people would beat it up until the bottom fell out. Then the cat was allowed to run away (hopefully still alive!). Yes! Can you imagine? If you ever heard of those days' Danes as a wild and....................
barbarian people, you heard it right. The cat was not the only victim. If they would decide on a goose, the poor lad would have it much worse! It would be hung up with its head down, and now its head would serve the same purpose as the barrel did. Yes, you got it right...

So can you imagine my eyes when at that Copper Wedding Anniversary I told you about before, I accidentally saw a barrel hung up and kids coming to it in turns and smashing it really hard, while adults were screaming "Yeah! Come on! You can do it!"??!

Thank God, modern Danes are not so cruel! There was no cat running out of the barrel, but there were lots of sweets falling down to the ground :)  The boy who eventually broke the barrel and released the candy became "the king" and was encrowned :)

According to the history, Fastelavn traces all the way back to 1500s. Some sources say, that the tradition was probably brought to then Catholic Denmark by Dutch families who immigrated around 1520. The idea was that Danes "prepared" for the 40-day fast by eating as much "forbidden" and fat food as they could only take and afford. In 1536 the catholic "flavor" was gone, but the tradition lived on. Fastelavn is celebrated on a Fastelavn Sunday which is 7 weeks before the Easter, so it's between 1 February and 7 March. This year it has fallen on 10 February. 

Today this Danish tradition is about eating a lot of food and about children wearing carnival costumes, going from house to house in the neighbourhood singing the song "Fastelavn er mit navn" (Fastelavn is my name) asking for treats and just having fun.

Right now my cat came into the room and laid down just next to me. So nice and sweet! How could they ever put them in a barrel?!

BTW!!! In the old times the cat in the barrel was black and was actually believed to be a cluster of evil spirits which had to be banished. Thus, on her way out the cat took away all the evil.

What about you? Have you tried to beat the "cat" out of the barrel? :)

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