Estonian Christmas and a tradition that dates back 350 years
Christmas is one of the most important holidays in Estonia. It is a mixture of traditional and modern, of religious and non-religious. Due to the many occupa- tions of Estonia, Christmas celebrations in Estonia have been influenced by many different cultures.
Like in most of Northern Europe, Estonians celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve (24 December). In the folk calendar, Christmas began on St. Thomas’s Day (21 December) and lasted until Epiphany (6 January). Christmas holidays were celebrated from 25-27 December, with 24 December being the most important day.
The word jõulud (Christmas) comes from the word Jul, a word that has no connection to Christianity. Scandinavia and Estonia are the only areas in Europe where Christmas is still referred to by a pre-Christian word. The word näärid, of German origin, was also used to mark the holiday. It was the only official seasonal holiday during the Soviet period. Otherwise, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were celebrated at the time and Christmas was celebrated unofficially in the privacy of one’s home.
These days Santa brings gifts on the night of 24 December, a relatively new tradition that has become widely adopted. The Christmas tree is also a rather recent addition to Estonian Christmas symbols and came here through German culture in the mid 19th century. The tree was decorated very simply with toys and treats, then later candles.
Every year, on 24 December, the President of Estonia declares Christmas Peace. This is a 350-year- old tradition that began in the 17th century by the order of Queen Kristina of Sweden.
Traditional Estonian Christmas food includes pork with sauerkraut and blood sausage. There are many opportunities to try traditional Estonian Christmas food while visiting this December. Many restaurants have special Christmas menus on offer. And no visit to Estonia in winter is complete without a mug of glögg or mulled wine.