Monday, 21 December 2015

How to Celebrate Christmas the Estonian Way!

In Estonia Christmas is known by the pre-Christian word 'jõulud' and many of the country's traditions can be traced back to its pagan past. Traditionally Estonians laid Christmas straw in their homes during the festive season and made Christmas crowns but these things are rarely done today. One tradition that has survived the centuries is the lighting of candles and visiting the graves of loved ones. No-one is forgotten at Christmas time.

This is how Estonians typically celebrate Christmas today both at home and abroad.

Päkapikud (Christmas elves)

While Advent calendars tend to be popular in most Christian countries, they are not really used in Estonia. Traditionally, if children wish to receive sweets during the Christmas season, they leave a slipper on the window sill and during the night Christmas elves visit and fill it with sweets. 

Jõuluvana (Santa Claus)

In Estonia, Santa is known as 'Jõuluvana' (Old Christmas) and his Estonian headquarters is located in Jõgeva. He has a shop there open throughout the year to which children can either write letters or visit. All letters bearing a return address will be answered. Simply post them to Santa Claus Post Office in Jõgeva.


No Estonian home is complete without piparkoogid (gingerbread biscuits) at Christmas time. It's loved by all! Marzipan is also another popular Christmas treat!


Drinking spiced mulled wine 'glögi' is very popular with Estonians. You can either buy a pre-made bottle or make your own. It's very easy!

Estonians are very fond of celebrating important days on the 'eve' of the event - Jaanipäev, Mardipäev and Kadripäev are all celebrated the night before and Christmas is no exception. Every Estonian celebrates Christmas during the evening of 24th December. It's a time of much merriment and joy. 

Traditional Estonian Christmas dinner consists of pork, sauerkraut, baked potatoes and blood sausage (verevorst). There is also a lot of dill, sour cream, bread and potato salads on the table too. 

A nice tradition that has been taking place in Estonia for over 350 years is the declaration of Christmas peace. This was first initiated by Queen Christina of Sweden during the 17th Century and today the President of Estonia makes the speech on Christmas Eve.

25th December or 'jõulupüha' is usually a relaxed day reserved for visiting relatives.