“Fastelavn” – From Pagan Spring Festival to Christian Tradition

Fastelavn Birch Twigs Norway

(Photo: ThorNews)

Today, Norwegians celebrates Fastelavn, which means “fast-evening,” a celebration to mark the start of the season of Lent. Originally this was a pagan spring festival celebrating the transition from winter to spring, from darkness to fertility.

Fastelavn is celebrated in Norway, Denmark, Iceland and the Faroe islands the Sunday or Monday before Ash Wednesday. The holiday is sometimes described as a Nordic Halloween and is considered to be a time for children’s fun and family games.

In Norway Fastelavn is marked with birch twigs decorated with colored feathers and buns with whipped cream and jam, and in many kindergartens there are arranged carnivals.

Pagan Spring Festival

Many of the Fastelavn traditions originate from a pagan spring festival.

One of these traditions is the decorated birch twigs: Women, animals and trees would become fruitful by being whipped with the twigs, and they were therefore originally only used on young married women who had not yet had children.

Other traditions were to wear a costume, weapon fights and to burn ritual bonfires.

At Ash Wednesday, naked virgins were strapped to the plow – a symbolic battle between summer and winter, where winter was defeated and summer came with sprouting seeds.

 

 

Text by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews

Source: Store norske leksikon

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Categories: Culture, History

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