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Let the Norse times roll: Ridge revels in ‘Danish Mardi Gras’

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It was carnival — Viking style.

Dozens of Ridgites celebrated Fastelavn — or Danish Mardi Gras — at the Danish Athletic club in Sunset Park on Feb. 22. Traditionally, celebrants used the day as a gluttonous bash before the Spartan pre-Easter season of Lent — similar to the New Orleans tradition of Mardi Gras. But the Scandinavian festival wraps in another familiar holiday tradition — costumed children extorting treats from adults.

“Its like a Mardi Gras with trick-or-treating,” said organizer Victoria Hofmo, who runs the East Coast Scandinavian Museum.

In one tradition, kids visit neighbors and sing a song promising “trouble” if they don’t get Fastelavn buns — a sweet, creme-filled roll, she said.

But there was no trouble, despite a lack of authentic buns, Hofmo said.

“We had cream puffs instead — usually we have the buns but Nordic closed,” she said, referring to the recent closure of Ridge staple Nordic Delicacies.

When they weren’t snacking on holiday pastries, partiers played games like Slå Katten af Tønden — once a tradition where folk put a cat in a barrel and smacked it around, but now a harmless pinata game, Hofmo said.

Hofmo organized the event, plus others such as the Norwegian Day Parade, to share the neighborhood’s Nordic heritage. Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Sunset Park were once home to the largest Scandanavian population in the country, said Nordic Delacacies’ former owner Arelene Rutuelo.

After the Danish Athletic Club stopped having its Fastelavn parties years ago, the Scandinavian East Coast Museum resurrected the wingdings, Hofmo said.

“We found out that they had Fastealvn’s years ago and kind of brought back this tradition,” she said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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