Slik Eller Ballade: Halloween in Denmark

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“Slik eller ballade” is Danish meaning “trick or treat” and is used in Denmark when kids go knocking on doors around the neighborhood to ask for candy. But it is not only for Halloween this saying is used.

“Where we live, the streets are packed with scary kids dressed up, and my boys love being skeletons while they are trick or treating. On our trip around the neighborhood, it differs a lot how the citizens meet the children. Some people are happy and comment on their outfit while others are just mad and won’t even open their doors,” says Anja Damtoft who is mom to 3, 5, and 9-year-old boys.

In America, the majority are dressed up or celebrate Halloween in some way. But in Denmark, it is mostly the small kids that go trick or treating and have costumes. If older teenagers or even adults would start doing this, most people would think it was a little weird.

Halloween has been adapted to the Danish culture in many ways in just a few years, but the trick or treating part still remains for the youngsters. Over the past few years, amusement parks, kindergartens, schools, and companies have arranged special events, parties, or dinners for that day – sometimes even dressing up and making a competition out of it.

Denmark started adapting the tradition more seriously 10-15 years ago after it had been “forgotten” for about 200 years. The reason for that is because it was abolished during the holiday reform in 1770. Back then, they decided to skip a lot of holidays and made them into a few big ones instead so there was more time to do work.

“Fastelavn” was originally a party for adults in which they drank alcohol, ate meat, danced, dressed up, and “hit the cat out of the barrel” on horses with a living cat inside. The cat symbolized evil, and the people wanted to protect themselves from that.  This all took place until the mid 1800s.

Today, the barrel used for “fastelavn” is filled with candy or other eatable things, and the living cat has been replaced with one made out of paper that is taped to the outside of the barrel. It has become a tradition in Denmark that kids in schools and kindergartens dress up and have a competition to see whoever can get the barrel down from the string first. The person knocking down the first piece of wood is crowned “cat princess”, and the person knocking down the very last piece of wood is crowned the “cat king”. Some kids go trick or treating at night with their costumes on just like kids would do for Halloween in America. “Fastelavn” is more famous in Denmark and can be compared to the American Halloween in many ways.

“I think the American celebration of Halloween is cool even though I sometimes wonder if Americans know the whole point of Halloween. I think the concept has gotten off track and been replaced with this whole candy thing instead,” says Nicklas Ipsen.

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