New venue, same fun for annual Fastelavn celebration

The Danish Mardi Gras was yet another success.

The Scandinavian East Coast Museum (SECM) organized its annual Fastelavn Celebration on Saturday, February 20. The event has typically been held at the Danish Athletic Club, which was unavailable this year due to renovations. Instead, Vesuvio’s Restaurant, 7305 Third Avenue, stepped up to the plate to host the celebration.

According to Victoria Hofmo, president of SECM, the change in venue didn’t take away from the fun that was had by all attendees.

“It was such a nice celebration. Obviously we didn’t have Danish food this year, but we did serve a special dessert from Leske’s Bakery. It’s a very nice and cozy room and went really well,” she said.

One of the more unique activities was the decorating of branches, a tradition that allows attendees to get creative with feathers, candy and other items, then take them home and then plant them. “It’s a spring ritual,” Hofmo said.

Games were also played throughout the day.

“This year we played nontraditional Scandinavian games,” she said. “Bob Carlsen served as the game meister. We played musical chairs but used cut outs of black cats this year. We kept removing one until the last person was standing.”

Accordion player Ellen Lindstrom returned to the celebration to add to the merriment. “She’s very good and mixes it up. She’s in sync with the games. She was playing ‘Alley Cat’ during musical chairs,” Hofmo said.

Although the event featured many regulars, newcomers also attended and enjoyed the event. “There were three or four new people at the event. One of the women was laughing the whole time. It was a fun day for the new people that showed up,” Hofmo added.

A piñata was also included, in honor of the ‘hit the cat in the barrel’ tradition, which is said to represent good luck.

Dressing in costume is an important part of the event. “We had a lot of people dressed up,” Hofmo said. “Some were dressed as Popeye and Olive Oyl, cowboys and cowgirls. Bob was a nun. We even had someone dressed in a Japanese gown that showed a Viking princess. I was a character from Day of the Dead. People like to get dressed in costume and it makes a big difference in spirit.”

The day was a success and the tradition doesn’t seem to be dying down anytime soon. “It’s so much fun. I hope more people come in the future, especially kids. They would really enjoy it,” Hofmo said. “In some ways, it’s about educating other people about our culture but we educate ourselves as well.”

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