As we move toward the light

Tonight is “pork monday” and yesterday we celebrated “Fastelavn” with some very close friends.

"Fastelavn", the danish word for the christian holiday "shrovetide", this is our tradition as a modern pagan family. Visit my blog and read about our traditions. How do you celebrate the coming of spring? www.pennnylane.dk
Good looking people!

 

Fastelavn er mit navn…

”Fastelavn” is the Danish word for the celebration of “Shrovetide”, a carnival of welcoming the spring. This carnival tradition dates back to 7-800 BC, where it was a pagan celebration with the purpose of driving away the darkness of winter and welcoming spring. When Christianity was introduced in europe, the carnival became a Christian tradition called Shrovetide, leading up to the 40 days of lent before Easter.

But this holiday still serves the same purpose as always: To bring light to end the dark time of year.

 

The Danish word for Shrovetide, “fastelavn” comes from the german “vastelavent” meaning the night before lent.  Shrove Sunday always falls on the 7th Sunday before Easter and is followed by Shrove Monday, Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.

Historically, the three days before Ash Wednesday were used to eat as much meat and sweets as possible, since both were forbidden during lent. This is why Shrove Sunday and Shrove Monday are also known as “flæskesøndag” and “flæskemandag”. (Translated it means “Pork-Sunday and Pork-Monday). Take a guess at what you had for dinner?!? 😉

Shrove Tuesday is also called “hvide tirsdag” (White Tuesday) because you would traditionally eat white foods on this day. This is also the day you would eat “fastelavnsboller” (Shrovetide buns); a sweet bun filled with custard/marzipan and jam.

Fastelavnsboller, shrovetide buns. A danish traditional dessert-bun with custard, marzipan and jam - delicious! www.pennnylane.dk
This years leftovers of fastelavnsboller

 

Back in christian times, Shrovetide was mainly a celebration for adults, who would dress up and celebrate. Today most of the festivities are for children. Children dress up in costumes, and go from house to house singing for “treats”.(A bit like Halloween, but without all the scary costumes).

Shrovetide traditions

An old tradition, which still is practiced, is the Danish tradition of hitting at a barrel, like you would a “pinata”.

After christianity “adopted” the holiday, a black cat, seen as a symbol of evil (also known as a witches familiar or as satan himself), was put into the barrel. The tradition was to beat the barrel with a stick until it broke and killed the cat.

It’s still a very normal tradition, however today the barrel contains sweets or toys. But a part of the old tradition still remains, as the one to break the last board of the barrel is crowned the King of Cats. (And the first to break the barrel is crowned the Queen).

The birch rod

Another tradition we still have is the decorated Shrovetide birch rod. Children decorate birch rods with paper decorations and streamers and we showcase them in our house as a sign of the coming spring.

As a pagan sign of fertility it was considered good luck for young newly wed women to be struck with a birch rod, as it would increase her fertility. This tradition was changed as well as christianity adopted the holiday to symbolize beating evil and sin out of people.

The stores also sell “birchrods” with candy and decorations for those who don’t have the time to make one…

Today the tradition is thankfully much more family-friendly, and many children will decorate their birch rod in school or in kindergarten, and wake their parents on Shrove Sunday by beating the birch on their duvets and singing a special “fastelavns” song:

“Boller op, Boller ned, Boller i min mave…

 Hvis jeg ingen boller får, så laver jeg ballade!”

loosely translated….

“Buns up, Buns down, Buns in my belly…

 If I don’t get any buns, I am going to make trouble!”

Of course you would serve the children “fastelavnsboller”, because who wants trouble?! 🙂

Dianna dressed as a little kitten for Fastelavn. To read more about this danish tradition, go to my blog: www.pennnylane.dk

 Dianna was dressed as a little kitten this year (thx for the costume Uncle Daniel!)

Becoming a mother has reminded me how important it is to celebrate family traditions and to keep them going.

I hope someday she will be the one celebrating fastelavn with her children and friends! 🙂

How do you celebrate the coming of spring?

Lughnasadh

walk in the woods for Lughnasadh/lamms. This is a yearly tradition we do for Lughnasadh/lamms. For more ideas to celebrate the harvest festival, check out my blog: www.pennnyland.dk

What is Lughnasadh?

Lughnasadh (what a mouthfull, huh?), pronounced “Loo-NAS-ah” is one of the yearly 8 pagan sabbats marking the beginning of the autum harvest season. It is the 1st of the three autum harvest festivals, and also known as Lammas in England. The sabbat originated in Ireland and Scotland and was originally celebrated on August 1st, or about halfway between the summer solstice and the autum equinox.

This year Lughnasadh falls on the 8th of august, where the full moon will rise, also known as the corn moon.

Pagan wheel of the year. www.pennnylane.dk

 

Historically Lughnasadh was celebrated by great gatherings with religious ceremonies, athletic contests (Olympic games anyone??), feasts, bonfires, weddings and markets.

In early Ireland, it was a considered bad to harvest your grain any time before Lughnasadh, because that meant that the previous years harvest had run out early. But on August 1, the first grain was cut by the farmer, and his wife made the first loaves of bread of the season.

Farmers harvesting the first grain for Lughnasadh. www.pennnylane.dk

 

 

Lugh – the skillfull God

Lughnasadh is named after the irish deity “Lugh” or “Lug”, known as a hero or high king of great skill. Even though Lugh was not considered a god of War like the roman god Mars in quite the same sense, his skill on the battlefield was still a very highly valued ability, and he was considered a warrior by the irish. His weapons included a mighty magic spear and a sling.

Lugh - the skillfull god, whose weapon of choice was the spear and sling. www.pennnylane.dk

 

Other legends of Lughnasadh (the first harvest)

In Nordic mythology, Thor’s wife Sif’s beautiful golden hair is cut off by Loki the prankster. Thor is so upset that he wants to kill Loki, but instead he gets the dwarves to spin Sif some new hair, which grows magically as soon as it touches her head.  The hair of Sif is associated with the harvest, and the golden grain that grows every year.

Loki giving Sif a haircut, symbolizing the harvesting of the first grain of the season. www.pennnylane.dk

Lughnasadh today

The sabbat/festival is still celebrated today under many different names in europe, for example Puck Fair in Ireland. (Lúnasa is also the irish name for the month of August and in scottish gaelic it means 1st of august.)

In Denmark, August is a time for many country fairs and festivals, especially with folkmusic and August is also very popular for weddings and handfastings. We had our wedding in august as well (many, many, many, many….. years ago…).

Our wedding 9th august 2003 in Stenløse church. www.pennnylane.dk

This year we will be having Dianna’s christening in august as well, the 14th to be precise!

My personal Lughnasadh

For me personally Lughnasadh is a time where I enjoy my garden which is full of bloom, and where we taste the first fruits from our fruit bushes and bake lovely pies and fruit cakes.

One of our season-traditions in August is a yearly visit to Dyrehaven (translates to “Animal-garden”), which is a forrest north of Copenhagen, with the entire extended family, where we enjoy a good walk and picnic in the tranquil forrest.

A walk with my husband and daughter in the woods. Our daughter Dianna is 4 months old in this picture. www.pennnylane.dk

Afterwards we visit Bakken, which is an amusement park right smack in the middle of the forrest, where there are rides and arcades. The kids love it! And you know what – they actually look forward to visiting the forrest as much as the amusement park!

The enterence to the amusement park Bakken. www.pennnylane.dk

 

What traditions do you and your family have for this season?

 

Signature on my blog: www.pennnylane.dk