Introduction to Estonian public and national holidays
In addition to providing language courses as well as information about local public administration and way of life, the programme Settle in Estonia also helps newcomers understand Estonian culture, people, customs and traditions. Estonian society in general is not that different from other European countries. Still, there are some peculiarities here that every foreign national having moved to Estonia might find useful for adapting quickly. Below, we give you an overview of Estonian holidays and festivals.
Which holidays do Estonians celebrate?
Estonian holidays briefly overviewed here are also one of the topics of the basic module of the programme Settle in Estonia. Estonians celebrate some international holidays: Christmas, the New Year, Valentine’s Day, April Fools’ Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. One of the festivals which is becoming more and more popular is Halloween. In addition to international festivals, there is a number of local holidays with a long history that are celebrated in Estonia, for example, the Independence Day, Shrove Tuesday, Easter Sunday, Walpurgis Night, Saint John’s Eve, solstice and equinox days, St Martin’s Day and St Catherine’s Day.
The other name by which Valentine’s Day goes in Estonia is the Friends’ Day. Unlike the international tradition of on romantic relationships, in Estonia, friendship is celebrated on 14 February in addition to romantic love.
The Independence Day
The Independence Day on 24 February is the celebration of the anniversary of proclaiming the sovereignty of the Republic of Estonia on 24 February 1918. At sunrise, the blue, black and white national flag is hoisted on Tall Hermann tower of Toompea Castle, accompanied by the national anthem; speeches are held, and the Estonian Declaration of Independence is recited. All over the country, festive events are organised, the national flag is raised on buildings, and a military parade as well as the President’s reception are held, both of which are broadcast on national TV channels. If you would also like to take part in Independence Day celebrations, we recommend coming to Toompea to watch the flag-raising ceremony at sunrise.
Shrove Tuesday is one of those moveable feasts which fall on different days every year. This is a holiday from the church calendar associated with the beginning of Lent, which precedes Easter. Not many Estonians are religious, and even those who are don’t always follow Lenten fasting rules. This, however, does not prevent anyone from celebrating Shrove Tuesday with a feast. Traditional Shrove Tuesday foods include pea soup and pig’s trotters, but the ultimate bestsellers are buns filled with whipped cream which appear in shops and cafés at least a month before. If the weather is right, and there is snow, Shrove Tuesday customs feature sledging: this is the day when many adults allow themselves to have some childish fun in the snow, too.
What about Easter?
One church fete Estonians value is Easter and Good Friday. As we have already said, Estonians are not exactly the most religious nation, but who would not like to have a day off on Good Friday? The traditional Easter Bunny and the accompanying avalanche of sweets invade Estonian homes just as the candy left over from Christmas gifts has run out.