The Vikings invaded!
Costume-clad Scandinavian Brooklynites danced, played games, and sank their teeth into traditional sweets for Fastelavn — the Danish Mardi Gras before the Lenten season of fasting — at the Danish Athletic Club in Bay Ridge. The celebration fuses Halloween and the New Orleans tradition of Mardi Gras with a gluttonous bash that lets Nordic locals come together keep their traditions alive, said one reveler who dressed up as a witch.
“This celebration is important, because in our Scandinavian community, we firmly believe in preserving our heritage and tradition, and this helps us pass it along,” said Norwegian Bay Ridgite Sylvia Reich. “I enjoy socializing with everyone, because the area used to have a lot of Norwegians, Swedish, and Danish, so this makes you feel there is still a Scandinavian community that is together.”
Nearly 50 people packed into the Danish American Club for a feast of traditional delights including Frikadeller — pan-fried minced-meat dumplings — and Fastelavn buns — a sweet, creme-filled roll.
Accordionist Ellen Lindstrom played Scandinavian tunes for the crowd, and locals swung at a butterfly-shaped pinata, took part in the spring tradition of decorating branches with ribbons and feathers, and tried their luck at a game similar to musical chairs.
Neighboring Sunset Park — portions of which were once nicknamed “Little Norway” — were lush with Norwegian butchers, Swedish bakers, and Dutch grocers until the 1960ss, according to Reich who was born and raised in the area bounded by 40th and 60th streets and Sixth and Eighth avenues.
Traces of Little Norway still exist, but the area’s Scandinavian population has scattered across Southern Brooklyn, said Reich.
“It use to be packed with Scandinavians, but there are a few places left,” said Reich. “The Danish American Club survived and they keep our culture going. It’d great to see.”