ESTONIA

In the weeks preceding Christmas or jõulud, children place a slipper in their windows and receive a piece of candy or some other sweets from visiting elves (päkapikud). Estonians celebrate Christmas on December 24, which is referred to as jõululaupäev (“Christmas Saturday”)[clarification needed] and is by act of Parliament a public holiday in Estonia. Each year on this day, the President of Estonia declares the Christmas Peace and attends a Christmas service. The tradition was initiated by the order of Queen Christina of Sweden in the 17th century. Estonian children are visited by jõuluvana (“Santa Claus”) on Christmas Eve, and must sing songs or recite Christmas poems before receiving their gifts.

The evening meal typically includes pork with sauerkraut or Estonian sauerkraut (mulgikapsad), baked potatoes, white and blood sausage, potato salad with red beet, and pāté. For dessert, Estonians eat gingerbread (piparkoogid) and marzipan. The most highly regarded drinks during this time have been beer and mulled wine or glögi and hõõgvein (“glowing wine”). Estonians leave the leftover food from Christmas dinner on the table overnight, in hopes that the spirits of family, friends, and loved ones will visit and also have something to eat. It is also customary to visit graveyards and leave candles for the deceased.

December 25 or jõulupüha is a relaxed day for visiting relatives.

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