Q: Any festivities in winter?

A: Yes, the most important holidays in winter are Christmas and New Year.


CHRISTMAS (jõulud)Estonian word “jõulud“ is derived from the ancient Scandinavian word jul (Old English yule). In South-Estonia other names have been used, e.g. talvistepühad, talvsi-, taliste-, talsipühad and these resemble more Baltic and Slavonic words.
December 24 is Christmas Eve (jõululaupäev) and December 25 Christmas Day.
The darkest time of the year was full of magic and omens for the future.

 

IN THE PAST
On Christmas Eve hay or straw was brought into the room to sleep or play on.

Women usually made sausage (valgevorst)Valgevorst – white sausage is made of groats and onion and then the intestines are stuffed with the mixture and cooked. or dumplings (verikäkk)Verikäkk – blood dumpling, cut into slices and fried, nowadays eaten with sour cream..

Special hanging decorations were made of straw called crowns (jõulukroon)Jõulukroon – (Christmas Crowns) are hanging decorations made of straw and reed, hung from ceilings mostly in West Estonia. The crowns were decorated with egg shells, yarn, strips of fabric and feathers. Lustres and chandeliers in churches and manor houses have been considered as examples for these crowns. This tradition was forgotten by the beginning of the 20th century but it again became fashionable as part of the New Year customs reinstated by schools and handicraft hobby groups in the 1960s. and they were attached to the ceiling.

The most widespread symbol was an eight-pointed star (kaheksakand)Kaheksakand – eight pointed star

Traditionally Christmas bread (jõululeib)Jõululeib – Christmas bread. A special bun (bannock) was baked for Christmas as it was a magic symbol of fruitfulness and fecundity in the 19th century. This had a shape of a mound, heap or pig and it was kept on the table during the holidays. On New Year’s Eve it was eaten and pieces were also given to animals, some pieces were preserved until spring and were given to cattle. was made and beer was brewed. Rural people went to church by horse and sleigh. Sleigh bells were attached to ward off evil spirits.

People stayed at home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day because evil spirits were on the move.

NOWADAYS
The season of advent begins on a different date each year and during this four-week period children put their slippers and socks on the window sills in the evening. At night
dwarvesPäkapikk – (Santa’s little helpers) dwarf, elf, assistant to Father Christmas place sweets in these slippers but only those of good children. Children write letters to Father Christmas and explain what they wish to receive as a Christmas present.

A spruce treeAt the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century Estonians who lived in towns started to bring in Christmas trees, following the example of Germans. In the middle of the 19th century this tradition became common among rural people as well because they had seen this custom in manor houses. In the 1870s this became a widely observed tradition. At the same time yuletide gift-gatherers in disguise (who were mostly young men visiting households on special days of the Christmas holidays, wishing luck and receiving nuts, apples, etc in return) were replaced by Father Christmas who brought presents, just as in Germany. Nowadays we have spruce trees at home and in public places from advent till Epiphany. or some spruce branches (also pine trees on the West Estonian islands) are brought home and decorated. A lot of lights, candles and lanterns are used at home and in public places.
Plants called Poinsettia (Christmas flowers) are bought to decorate homes and offices.

Christmas shopping is popular but some people make Christmas presents themselves.

On Christmas Eve people go to grave yards and light candles on the graves of relatives and friends. The grave yards are full of lit candles all over the country, providing a breathtaking and picturesque site for reminiscing. Some people go to church.

On Christmas Eve families gather together, children always try to come home for Christmas.

Father Christmas (jõuluvana) (also known as Santa Claus nowadays) comes on Christmas Eve and children have to sing or dance or recite poems to receive the gifts. Sometimes Father Christmas is so busy that gifts are left on the door step and then family members play his role.

Traditional food:

  • jellied meat (or brawn)(sült) and boiled potatoes
  • black pudding (verivorst) and pickled turnip or cowberry salad
  • roast meat (pork), sauerkraut  and potatoes
  • piparkooks (piparkoogid) biscuits made from flower and spices, they are dark brown and sometimes decorated with glaze


 

 

Exercise 10

Exercise 11

  Listen to the words in Estonian and repeat.  
 

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

jõulud

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

jõululaupäev

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

jõuluvana

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

sült

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

piparkook

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

verivorst

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

verikäkk

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

jõulukroon

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

kaheksakand

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

jõululeib

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

tahma Toomas

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

näärid

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

vana-aasta õhtu

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

uusaasta

 

 
     

Exercise 12

 

 

  Listen to the words and expressions in English and repeat. Try to remember the context in which every word was used.  
 

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

   
 

 

folk calendar

forge work

ploughing

solstice

Soot-Toomas

blood dumpling

dwarves or elves or Santa's little helpers

spruce tree

 

jellied meat or brawn

black pudding

turn of the year

New Year's Eve

straw

sauerkraut

Shrove Tuesday

flax

humming top

 
     



Q: Was the turn of the year also important?
A: Yes, it was.


NEW YEAR or turn of the year (näärid)
December 31 is New Year’s Eve (vana-aasta õhtu) and January 1 is New Year’s Day (uusaasta)


IN THE PAST
Children romped in the straw that had been brought into the room.

Tools were symbolically moved around and shaken to promote work with them next year.

Apple trees were shaken to ensure a good yield.

Predictions were made about the New Year.

There was more food on the table to ensure food When Estonians joined other people at the table, and before commencing to eat, they wished, instead of Bon appetite, that there would always be enough bread on the table – Jätku leiba! for the coming year.  Some bread or oats were given as a New Year’s gift to domestic animals.

After the Second World War a New Year’s tree was brought in.

The New Year was greeted with gunshots and rattling, this noise also frightened away demonic powers.

NOWADAYS
Food is traditionally the same as for Christmas, i.e. jellied meat, potatoes, sauerkraut, black pudding, pickled pumpkins, piparkooks (piparkoogid).

There are end-of-the-year balls in theatres and concert halls.

On 31 December there are TV shows of Estonian origin on all Estonian TV channels, causing a lot of discussion afterwards (Which program was better? Why? etc.).

The President of the Republic delivers a speech on radio and TV during the last minutes of the old year.

New Year is greeted with fireworks and drinking sparkling wine. People wish a Happy New Year (Head uut aastat!) to each other. It is a good sign when the first New Year wishes are said by a man.

People try to welcome the New Year outdoors, at least at midnight or after midnight people go out. There are fireworks in larger towns. When the clock strikes 12 at midnight, people gather around spruce trees that are in central squares.

 

Exercise 13

Exercise 14

 

GLOSSARY
Christmas Eve - jõululaupäev
cowberry - pohl
dwarves or elves or Santa’s little helpers - päkapikud
fireworks  - ilutulestik
grave yard - kalmistu
New Year’s Eve - vana-aasta õhtu
prediction - ennustus
sleigh bells - kuljused
spruce - kuusk
straw - õled
window sill - aknalaud