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Norway’s Carnival: Fastelavn

If you’re traveling to Norway during February you might be surprised to find out that the country has its very own version of a Mardi Gras-style carnival. The festival is called Fastelavn and it is meant to celebrate the promise of Spring’s return.It is celebrated in most Scandinavian countries and similar traditions occur in countries like Brazil and Portugal.
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Traditionally, the festival was centered around a big feast to allow for a little indulgence before the beginning of Lent when many fast for 40 days. Today, the festival has less of a religious connotation for Norwegians but the celebrations live on.
If you’re going to be in Norway at the end of February for Fastelavn, consider yourself lucky! This festival contains many unique foods and entertaining activities.
VisitOSLO/ Nancy Bundt


The best part of Fastelavn? Well, this is up for debate, but Fastelavnboller would definitely be a contender. These sweet buns are typically covered in icing sugar and filled with a sweet custard. Needless to say, they are delicious. If you’re lucky enough to be in Norway for Fastelavn don’t forget to grab these sweets fresh from a bakery in the morning. If you’re hoping to experience more of Norway’s local food tradition, join us for a Norwegian food tours experience!
Bun with whipped cream - Fastelavn, Norway
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If you love watching little ones in their costumes on Halloween you’ll definitely love being in Norway for Fastelavn. Part of the festival traditions for children involves dress-up. Young Norwegians dress in costumes and celebrate Fastelavn in kinder garden and school.


Fastelavn games have a somewhat strange and unfortunate history. What has now become a fun game of pinata used to be a fertility ritual in which young and infertile women were flogged. From there, the tradition thankfully evolved; however, it didn’t evolve quite enough because, in the new version, cats bore the brunt of the pain.
Each year, a black cat would be placed in a barrel. The barrel would be repeatedly hit with what is known as a fastelavnsris or a stick. Once the barrel was cracked open the cat would (understandably!) run away and this was seen as a symbolic way of chasing away evil and bad luck.
Thankfully, those traditions no longer exist today. Instead, children hit a pinata-like object. The first to crack open the pinata is given the title of ‘Queen of the Cats’ while the child that breaks the bottom of the pinata is given the title of ‘King of the Cats’
Child with mask - carnival in Norway
Jessica Rockowitz/ Unsplash
If you’re traveling in Norway at the end of February and want to incorporate some Fastelavn celebrations into your plans, get in touch with us to find out how you can participate in this longstanding tradition.
The festival is celebrated in most areas of the country from big cities like Oslo to Tromsø up north. Trust us, the Fastelavnboller alone will be an experience you’ll never forget!

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