Fastelavn, the Sunday before lent

Fastelavn in Scandinavia will be celebrated, depending on the country, either today or on Tuesday.
We celebrate with three important traditions; carnival, rich food and with decorating our homes with fastelavnsris, shown in the picture to the left.
During the period of carnival all nurseries and schools in Scandinavia celebrate in one way or the other. The youngest children have a day of carnival, dressing up and inviting their parents for morning coffee and the rich and delicious sweet buns with cream that we call “fastelavnsboller” or “semlor”.
Scandinavian fastelavn traditions also have their roots from before Christian times. Following old tradition the children rise at daybreak, arm themselves with Fastelavnsris, decorated birch branches, and go about the house trying to switch all the “lazy” people they can catch lying in bed. This curious custom of switching with branches doubtless originated in an ancient pagan rite of bringing into the village the fruitfulness of spring. It also symbolises the change from winter and hopes for a fruitful spring.
Nowaday families, nurseries and schools make their own “fastelavnsris”, decorating branches with bright coloured feathers or sparkling tinsel and paper streamers of red, orange, yellow and green. We also add flowers or other colourful and decorative items. And luckily lazy people do not have to fear a Sunday lie in any longer as the “fastelavnsris” is only a decorative item in a vase on the the table these days.


Fastelavnsboller is simply sweet buns filled with cream, served with a thin layer of icing sugar on top. Some also add jam together with the whipped cream. Tastes wonderful together with a cup of coffee for brunch or around tea time.

The sweet buns
150 gr butter
5 dl milk or water
50 gr fresh yeast
1 dl sugar
12-13 dl strong white flour
½ teaspoon cardamome
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon bakingpowder

The whipped cream
3 dl double cream
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp vanilla sugar

1. Melt the butter, add water/milk, warm until 38C.
2. Add salt and just a little sugar to the yeast to let the yeast melt.
3. Add water/butter and stir well. Add the rest of the sugar and almost all of the flour. Knead until you get a smooth dough, add more flour if necessary.
4. Let the dough rest and rise to double size. (time may vary depending on room temperature etc. Be patient!)
5. Knead again and cut the dough into 25 small pieces that you make into rolls. Put the rolls on a baking trey, cover with cling film and let them rise again for 20-30 minutes.
6. Bake at 230C for 10-15 minutes. Leave too cool.
7. Cut the sweet buns and fill it with whipped cream, jam or marzipan after taste. Sprinkle with icing sugar and enjoy!

Happy Fastelavn!

5 thoughts on “Fastelavn, the Sunday before lent

  1. I love your decorated branches! So pretty. Hope you had a lovely weekend, celebrating. We don’t have this either in Canada though we did just finish March Spring break here. : ) I love your sweet bun recipe too! Yummy..

  2. really yhope you had a fun week end…:)
    carnival is not my thing at all… the part in Germany I am from we dont celebrate, my husband does not know at all what’s about and Amsterdam is no carnival city either.
    However on Tuesday I have to dress up my daughter for daycare… guess it will be a little nurse

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