Shrove Tuesday (vastlapäev) is a winter festivity, but it is not a fixed date. It is 7 weeks before Easter either in February or March. 

Q: How do you celebrate Shrove Tuesday?
Do you make pancakes?
A: No, I am afraid, we don’t. But Shrove Tuesday was and is celebrated.

This day was related to entertainment and anticipation of spring. According to the Church calendar Lent started on the next day. People went sledging and danced in the evening. Sledging was important – the longer the slide, the longer the stem of flax would be in the fields during the next summer. Slides were taken on a linen bag or a handful of flax, later on sledges and sleighs.

saanHumming tops were made of bones of pigs’ feet and there were competitions for the best humming top.

It was forbidden to light a fire or to spin lamb’s wool. It was advisable and customary to comb and cut hair.

Shrove Tuesday was a holiday for women. They went to inns to have a drink to ensure long flax fibres. It was customary to drink from the bottle to symbolize the length of flax.

It was advisable not to lick the fat from the fingers and not to clean your face after eating fatty pigs’ trotters (pig’s feet). This protected you from being cut with sharp instruments.

Traditional food was a soup of peas and beans, boiled pigs’ trotters.

Sledges, boards and plastic are used for sliding. People still speak about the length of flax but flax is very rarely grown in our fields. There is no longer any flax processing industry in Estonia. Children are taught to make humming tops using big buttons. Buns with whipped cream are eaten, also pigs’ trotters with pea or bean soup.



flax - lina
humming top - vurr

Lent  - suur paast, paastuaeg
pig’s trotters – seajalad
pod – kaun
Shrove Tuesday - vastlapäev
sledge or sleigh - regi, saan, kelk
slide - liug
string - nöör


Exercise 1


Exercise 2