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PHOTOS: Tradition takes over Bay Ridge at annual Fastelavn celebration

Another Danish Mardi Gras has come and gone.

The Scandinavian East Coast Museum (SECM) organized its annual Fastelavn celebration on Saturday, February 10 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church at the corner of Fourth and Ovington Avenues.

“It went really, really well,” noted Victoria Hofmo, president of SECM.

Fastelavn, a carnival historically celebrated in such places as Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Greenland, focuses around the return of spring as well as the idea of dressing up. It typically takes place either the Sunday or Monday before Ash Wednesday. For SECM, it’s the Saturday before.

“We’ve been doing this for close to 10 years,” Hofmo said. “We do things that are traditional like the music and the piñata and the special food, but really, it feels a little but like Halloween. There’s a lot of dressing up and almost some trick or treating involved as well. Part of me wonders how much of Halloween itself was adopted from the celebration of Fastelavn.”

The event featured traditional Danish music, branch decorating to signify the return of spring, and traditional Fastelavn buns and Danish treats as well as prizes for best costume. Games were also at the center of the celebration as well as a piñata to honor the Danish “hit the cat in the barrel” tradition, which is said to represent good luck.

Among the games, Hofmo said, was a “horse race” with black cats (another nod to the “hit the cat in the barrel” tradition, which Hofmo said, “we obviously don’t do”). “It was a nice way to incorporate the tradition,” she said.

As for why they celebrate, Hofmo said, “It’s really just to reclaim the holiday and share it with a larger audience. It’s not just about us, everyone is welcome to come.

“It’s a good way to get to know each other through food and culture and music,” Hofmo said.

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