Christmas Traditions in Estonia

Rõõmusaid jõulupühi ja head uut aastat!

Christmas in Estonia is in many ways the same as everywhere else in the world. For Christians there are radiant and quiet holidays with the family, for non-Christians it is a period of endless business possibilities for which the stores, anticipating throngs of buyers, begin preparing already in October.

Whole families usually gather together in their homes on Christmas Eve. Such gatherings normally take place only twice a year, on June 24th, Feast of St. John the Baptist, and at Christmas. Preparations for Christmas begin early in Estonia. A Christmas tree usually has a special place of honor in the home.

Everyone waits for Santa Claus to arrive from Lapland with his sleigh lead by reindeer and a huge bag of gifts. Both young and old earn their gifts by reciting verses, singing songs, or performing dances. Coming home from church, a big table with lit candles and homemade food awaits everyone. The foods that are prepared on Christmas Eve are traditional meals that have been passed from generation to generation. For dessert there are decorated gingerbread cookies as a finale.

Christmas Eve in Estonia is full of mysteries and wonders. An old story tells us that somewhere at the bottom of the sea there is a mighty kingdom, which, just like Atlantis of old was sunk for its evilness. As folklore has it, if a ship happens to pass near this spot on Christmas Eve, a deep and mournful bell tolling can be heard by the passing sailors. This same bell tolling can also be heard on land in church spires.