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Which winter holiday includes barrels and black cats?

Train your beginner’s mind with us – watch the video below.

The Story of Fastelavn

In the northern hemisphere this time of year used to be a time of fasting. Before the fast, there was a feast. In Denmark this feast is called fastelavn and is still today celebrated by kids getting dressed up in costumes and smashing a barrel filled with fruit and sweets. In the middle ages the barrel often contained a live cat, a symbol of evil spirits in many cultures. Needless to say that barbaric part of the tradition no longer exists, however the barrels will still have a black cat depicted on them.⁣

A recipe for vegan Fastelavnsboller

Octogenarians by default should be wise. One wise octo, a Professor Emeritus of Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, named Edward O. Wilson provides tremendous inspiration for my nature relatedness practice. My latest armchair read is his heady sounding (but joyful easy reading) book, The Meaning of Human Existence.  In it he writes, “It would be becoming of us (humans) to speak modestly of our status in the cosmos. Let me offer a metaphor: Earth relates to the Universe as the second segment of the left antenna of an aphid sitting on a flower petal in a garden in Teaneck, New Jersey for a few hours this afternoon.”  Shout out to Teaneck, whoop!

Human modesty is exactly what the crop of winter holidays that pop up all over the world in the next week are all about.  Right now, we are in the home stretch of winter, just cruising into spring when the growing season starts again. We humans like to pretend we are in charge of the world, but in our heart of hearts, we know that is not true.  It is all up to Mama Nature.

Holidays like Fastelavn, Mardis Gras, Pancake Day, Carnevale were developed at a time when humans felt anxious.  Most of the food preserves set up at harvest were gone, or were reaching their sell by dates. What to do? Practically, we got together and stuffed ourselves silly! We ate all the food that was going to go off and got fat. We became the preserves. Sound like any other animals out there? Bears come to mind. There we lean days to come when there would be little food available until summer. We might feel hungry, but we would be okay because we had some padding to burn.

Emotionally, feasting at this anxious/hopeful time was all about looking at our potential demise and deciding to dance. Not dance with ridiculous abandon, but to be joyful to steal ourselves for a challenge.  After all, the objective was life! And life should be something worth living. We ate, we drank, we were merry and wore costumes – at any age a playful release into a fantasy world.

Today, we are facing a climate crisis of our own making. But, we are not, in any way, at war with nature. Our challenge is to learn how to align our lives, our systems, with Mother Nature’s order once again. Like any good mom, she truly does have our best interests at heart.  As our ancestors taught us, when life feels most anxious do not ignore why that is, but find a functional solution that opts for collective joy – do something to move forward. That is exactly how you begin when you develop a nature relatedness practice and realise that nature is not out there, nature is in you.

Something to reflect on as when head from hands to habit, you whip up these Fastelavn Bolle with nature related intent. We’ve updated this traditional fatty Scandinavian treat before the fast for our times. We’re weaving in the last preserves in our pantry (peanut butter and jelly) and leaving out the cream and not so eco friendly almonds usually used for marzipan.  Enjoy!


For the dough:

25 g fresh yeast

3,5 dl oat milk

60g coconut butter

60g organic rapeseed or sunflower oil

1 dl sugar

1 tablespoon freshly ground cardamom

½ teaspoon salt

7-8 dl plain flour

For the filling:

Instead of the traditional marzipan and cream, opt for more eco friendly peanut butter and jelly! We make both from scratch, but if you don’t have homemade on hand, try buying some lovely preserves from a local market and make it special.

Heat milk and fat to wrist warm and, mix in yeast, sugar, cardamom, salt and flour. Leave to prove for 1,5 hours. It should be a firm, but not a hard dough.

Roll to 1,5 cm (aprox  ½ inch) thickness and cut in squares. Place a spoonful of filling on the middle of the square and fold all 4 corners over to wrap the filling surprise inside the bun, your preserves become a present. Lay corners down on parchment paper and bake for about ten minutes until golden and oozing aroma. Dust with cinnamon sugar before serving.