Barneblad: Fastelavnsris for your family

Carnival of color


Photo: kavring / iStock
At the start of the Lenten season each year, Editor-in-chief Lori Ann Reinhall decorates her home with a colorful fastelavnsris.

With the Lenten season upon us, it’s a time to think about getting ready for Easter and the coming of springtime.

The Norwegian word “fastelavn” comes from the Low German word “vaste­lavent,” meaning “the evening before the fast,” the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter. These 40 days were also known as Shrovetide in the English-speaking world.

In the Christian tradition, during the six weeks before Easter, it is customary to give up something, usually good food. Even to this day, many  people stop eating  meat, dairy, and sugar during Lent.

But there is also a “last hurrah“ before Lent begins. On Shrove Tuesday, or  Fat Tuesday as it is also known, there are big celebrations with the end of the carnival season, marked by  food and drink, merriment, and bright colors.

In Norway, many of the customs during Lent go back to earlier pre-Christian times. One of these customs is the fastelavnsris, perhaps best translated as a “Shrovetide switch.” It is a bundle of twigs—usually birch or pussywillow—decorated with brightly colored feathers. During  the  time when winter was turning into spring, these colorful branches symbolized fertility. The soil under the plow, the trees, the farm animals, and the women of the farm all took a little beating with the colorful switches—for fruitfulness and new life.

Of course, in Norway today, no one is being struck with a fastelavnsris, but they continue to decorate Norwegian homes during Lent, as people wait for spring and  the Easter holidays. During the last days of winter, it a colorful and festive reminder of what is to come.

Not only is a fastelavnsris bouquet pretty to look at, it is very inexpensive and easy to make, something for the entire family to enjoy together.

Photo: Morten Holm / NTB
Making a fastelavnsris is a fun and easy activity for the adults and children of all ages.


Make your own fastelavnsris

1. Gather your supplies

You will need a vase, birch or pussywillow twigs, colored feathers, cellophane tape, and craft glue. (Colored feathers may be purchased at any crafts store.)

2. Glue on the leaves

Put a few drops of glue on the feathers and attach them to the twigs. After you have finished gluing on the feathers, make sure the glue dries before making your arrangement.

3. Get your vase ready

Depending on how wide the mouth of your vase is, you may want to create a net with the tape, so it will be easier to create your arrangement of twigs.

4. Arrange your bouquet

Place the feathered branches in the vase to create a beautiful fastelavnsris bouquet.

This article originally appeared in the February 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.