Christmas in Estonia will take your expectations higher because the diversity, culture, and the cuisine are extremely unique. Your sense of holiday and the tradition will come in handy when you visit Estonia.
People in Estonia celebrate the holidays among family members and there are various activities they enjoy during that period.
Visiting Estonia soon? Make sure to prepare for your trip with additional resources:
- Dangerous Animals in Estonia
- Cannabis Laws in Estonia
- Traditional Food in Estonia You Shouldn’t Miss
Let’s learn more about it!
Table of Contents
The Advent Seasons in Estonia
Christmas in Estonia is highly unique because it usually starts at the beginning of the Advent season, which is the first week of December or the end of November.
People use the Advent calendars to count the time to Christmas. Children in Estonia might put some shoes on the windows expecting presents.
The Christmas elves usually treat the children, and the Christmas season runs through January when Christmas wraps up and all the Christmas trees come down.
Further reading: Christmas in Lithuania
Winter solstice in Estonia
Talvine pööripäev is the winter solstice – and Estonia is a unique location to experience the Christmas traditions in that time.
December 22nd is the beginning of the winter solstice. It is a pagan tradition or acknowledgment of the longest night and shortest day. It usually marks the beginning of the evergreen tree, and in ancient Estonian traditions, they were usually lit during the snowy setting in the region.
Winter solstice and Christmas are the two related holidays in Estonia and people celebrate them in all parts of the country. Pagans across the country celebrated this holiday before the advent of Christianity.
While the people in Estonia enjoy a few hours of the day, the ancient people celebrated and there was no electricity. They would celebrate during the day until the sun would set.
Further reading: Christmas in Iceland
Christmas Eve in Estonia
Christmas Eve in Estonia is one of the most loved holidays highly celebrated around the country. There is so much celebration that goes into the making of the Christmas feast, hence many people around the country enjoy an array of food that they are preparing.
Traditionally, in Estonia, seven up to twelve dishes are often served during this period. Estonians usually leave an empty seat at the table, therefore it is for the remembrance of the departed.
Christmas Eve is the most important day as people are preparing the feast and decorating the Christmas tree. During the night, Santa Claus will visit and leave the gifts under the Christmas tree.
In some places, many people will go to church on Christmas Eve and this is an important time for them to connect with other people in the community. In Estonia, Christmas is often a mixture of religious, secular, and modern traditions.
That is the reason for an array of traditions in the region. Just like many Baltic countries, they usually celebrate Christmas Eve and during the Advent, they usually light the advent candles.
Further reading: Christmas in Liechtenstein
Christmas Customs and Traditions in Estonia
In Estonia, people mark the Christmas season by jõulud, which often refers to two aspects of the Christmas tradition in the country.
It could mean the birth of Jesus and the celebration of the whole mid-winter holidays. The mysticism and the magic during this period are exceptional.
In the traditional folk calendar, the Christmas season began on St. Thomas’ day on 21st December and it could last until the Epiphany Day on January 6th. In the other parts of the country, they continued the holiday on St. Canute’s Day on 7th January.
The Estonians love their Christmas holidays. Christmas traditions have been common in the region and there is also a common holiday in the region such as Midsummer Night.
The connection between Christmas tradition and that of the ancient local pagan traditions has gained traction over the years in Estonia. Estonians embrace different features about it.
Further reading: Christmas in Austria
The local Christian traditions have become more popular in the country over time. Christmas Eve is one of the most common holiday seasons that people have put so much emphasis on in Estonia.
The traditions are often common in different parts of the country and while it might vary, especially in the urban areas, the rural parts still maintain the tradition.
People slaughter pigs during this season, and brew ale. According to the traditions in Estonia, Christmas Eve and Christmas night are the most sacred times of the season. They are characterized by fortune-telling.
The Christmas food is to remain on the table after dinner because people believe that their ancestors would consume it. There is a belief that the good and bad forces move around during the night of Christmas Eve and Christmas night. Therefore, it is important to understand that the ancestors and good spirits would come around if there was food on the table left for them.
Christmas Symbols and Customs in Estonia
When it comes to New Year’s Eve and Christmas traditions, the people in Estonia are known to maintain their culture and traditions. People will go to the sauna and spa to warm themselves.
They visit spa before the Christmas Eve local service in the village churches. Children get new shoes and clothes to dress up for the service.
Further reading: Christmas in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Perhaps one of the most common Christmas traditions in Estonia is that straws are often given during this period. The straws are important because they symbolize the manger where Christ was born.
Bringing straws to the house is one of the most important features of any holiday because it brings people together as they understand the symbol.
The habit came from Estonian people who came from the Swedish and Finnish-speaking regions. This tradition continues until today and people usually bring a few straws to the house.
Christmas crown was first brought into the country in the 20th century and they are often replaced by Christmas symbols. The tradition became more popular in the 70s. Currently, it has become more prevalent in all parts of the country.
Christmas tree in Estonia
One of the common traditions during the winter holidays in Estonia is the Christmas tree. There is the use of the evergreen tree. The tradition was brought from Germany in the pagan times.
However, this tradition has moved into the current system, where it is far more common in Estonia. People bring the Christmas tree into the house on Christmas Eve.
They will decorate the tree with light and stars. The local people have adopted this tradition even in the rural parts of Estonia.
Christmas food and drinks in Estonia
There are various dishes that you will find in Estonian homes during the Christmas period.
Some of the common foods that you are going to find prevalent in the region are blood sausage, pork, and sauerkraut.
During Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you are going to enjoy some of the enormous meals in the region. The locals believe that when they have large amounts of meals during this period, then they will have enough food in the coming year.
Estonians serve seven to twelve meals during Christmas night and there is a Christmas bread called Christmas barrow that is often baked. In different locations, the local people feed their animals with this bread because they believe that it brings good luck.
Gingerbread and Christmas cookies are more common in Estonia as well. In other parts of the country, home-brewed ale and mead are the most popular drinks. Communities will feast on them, especially in the fishing communities and agricultural areas.
Christmas Eve and Christmas are public holidays in Estonia. During this period, friends and family gather in large numbers to enjoy the holiday season.
Christmas Day in Estonia
In Estonia, Christmas Day is commonly called Jõulud, and it is the most popular festivity.
On Christmas Day, Estonians welcome their friends and families and they like to relax and enjoy the food in the house. Depending on the region that you are going to visit, you will find people going for church services as well.
The services usually last for a few hours and some people will visit the graves of their dead relatives and light candles. The ancient Estonian traditions have become less prevalent ever since. You will find people putting up Christmas trees and also waiting for Santa Claus to bring gifts to the children of the house instead.
Places to go celebrate Christmas in Estonia
There are different places that you can visit in Estonia during your trip.
Some regions that you should visit include the Christmas markets and the malls in Tallinn. They are exceptional as they keep the Christmas tradition alive and you can find some places that have nativity scenes.
The open-air museum is where you will find all the unique Christmas traditions. Throughout the years, the tradition in the area has remained the same.