In Denmark and Norway a popular baked good associated with the day is Fastelavnsbolle (lit. “Fastelavns bun”, also known in English as “shrovetide bun” or “lenten bun”), a round sweet roll usually covered with icing and sometimes filled with whipped cream. Similar buns are eaten in other northern European countries, for example the Swedish Semla. Ísafjörður is the only town in Iceland that celebrates Fastelavn on the same day as the Nordic countries, the day being known as Maskadagur (from the Danish word maske, meaning to dress-up or put on a mask).
There seem to be some small local traditions which are closer to the carnival traditions of other countries, including Ash Wednesday, Carnival parades, Pancake Tuesday and eating special food after Ash Wednesday, but they are not particular to Danish culture.
Another (specially among the children) popular custom is the “fastelavnsris”, with which children ritually flog their parents to wake them up on the morning of Easter Sunday.
Fastelavnsris have many shapes and forms and differ from area to area. In some areas they are bunches of twigs, usually from fruit trees and preferably with buds. Those are often decorated with feathers, egg-shells, storks and little figures of babies. In other areas, they are a bent willow-branch, shaped like an ankh and wound with crepe paper that has frizzles cut with scissors. Both varieties may be decorated with candy as well.
The custom is known already in the 1700′s in Denmark and it has several roots. There is probably no doubt the custom originates from an old fertility ritual, which has been absorbed into Christianity. The more serious one is that after the reformation, particularly pious people used to flog their children on Good Friday to remind them of the sufferings of Christ on the cross. A similar custom is mentioned in the book “Frauenzimmerlexicon”, published in 1715 in Leipzig (Germany), which describes how bachelors and virgins “bid each other goodmorning” by flogging each other and spreading ashes on each other. This custom is also known in Denmark.
Earlier, it was mainly the young women and the infertile who were flogged. It was also common that a young man would carry his “fastelavnsris” and (of course gently) strike at young women he met on the street. Later it became the childrens special right to flog their parents on this day. In any case, the reward given for the flogging would be a fastelavnsbolle.
1. 25g Yeast
2. 75g Melted Butter
3. 50g Sugar
4. 1 Pinch of Salt
5. 1.5dl Milk
6. 300g Flour
7. Seeds from 1/2 Vanilla Pod
8. or 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Sugar
9. 1 Egg or Egg Whites for Brushing
10. 25g Yeast
11. 75g Melted Butter
12. 50g Sugar
13. 1 Pinch of Salt
14. 1.5dl Milk
1. 100g Softened Butter
2. 150g Marzipan (Almond Paste)
3. 1-2 Tablespoon(s) of Sugar
Dissolve the yeast in the warmed milk. Mix in the lightly beaten egg and the melted butter. Stir in the flour, sugar and salt. Keep some of the flour until you can see how much is needed. Knead the dough until it is shiny and no longer sticks to your hands. Leave the dough to rise for an hour, covered by a tea towel.
Prepare the filling by softening the marzipan and mixing in the butter and a little sugar.
Divide the dough into 16 parts. Use each part to form a bun and flatten it with your hand, so it is about 10cm in diameter. Put a spoonful of the filling in the middle of each flattened bun, fold the corners together and form the dough into a bun.
Place the buns with the folded side downward on a piece of baking paper on a baking tray and let them rise for about an hour under a tea towel.
Brush the buns with the whisked egg or egg white and bake them in the center of a 200°C (about 425°F) oven for 10-15 minutes or until they are golden. Let the buns cool on a rack.
They taste the most fresh the day they are baked. Serving suggestion: icing or confection sugar on top and filled with cream.