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Every Sunday on Mount Faber in Singapore, Nordic expats gather in the Danish Seamen’s Church for the weekly service. However, on this particular Sunday, February 24, many of them were forced from the front rows and pushed to the back as the church was occupied by ninjas, princes, princesses, cowboys and astronauts. “Fastelavn” had reached Singapore.
The Danish tradition of Fastelavn is a custom that dates back to the time before the Reformation. Fastelavn marked the entrance to the 40-day fasting before Easter. In Denmark, just a few hundred years ago, the day was quite an ordeal if you were a cat. Many of them experienced the holiday from the inside of a barrel being beaten with sticks by children.
Today kids still dress up and swing bats, however, the poor cats have been spared and replaced by toys or candy. And just because you now live in Singapore, that does not mean you should be cheated out of dressing up like a princess or fireman and beating your way to some toys.
Nearly 300 people had turned up when the Danish Seamen’s Church in Singapore hosted Fastelavn. The church on the hill was swarming with kids in costumes along with their mothers and fathers snapping away on their cameras.
The day started out with a different kind of service. Hymns had been replaced by children’s songs and instead of wine and bread, lemonade and crackers were on the menu of today’s Communion. For most of the kids, the service was most likely more of a warm up for the actual action. The main event was waiting outside, as barrels filled with toys had been hung up and bats were ready to be swung.
One of first to approach the barrel was a ninja kid, masked and dressed in black. Bat in hand he confidently gave it the first crack of the day. Witches, knights and cowboys followed. Had there in fact been a cat inside it would soon be going deaf.
Knowing full well what was inside the barrels, just waiting to be released to its proper owners; it seemed that the kids had gotten superhuman strength along with their costumes. They gave it all they had and parents kept a distance as flying pieces of wood filled the air.
At around five o’clock the barrels had been diminished to stacks of firewood, and with sore arms and a new toy to bring home it had been an eventful day for the attending kids at the Danish Seamen’s Church in Singapore.