TRADITIONS & FOLKLORE

Estonians are very closely linked to nature and have always celebrating pagan feasts that mark changes and important events in the nature. Many local celebrations are connected to natural events and circles (like the midsummer day).

The soul of Estonian folklore lies in animism and spirituality of its people. Most of Estonia’s folklore heritage is preserved through old folk songs and legends that were orally passed on from generations to generations. Written down during the first period of independence, today Estonians possess the biggest collection of about 133.000 folk songs in the world.

MIDSUMMER DAY

Tradizionalmente Jaanipäev, il giorno di San Giovanni o il Giorno di Mezza Estate, segnava per gli antenati estoni la fine della primavera e l’inizio della raccolta estiva - il lavoro nei campi.

L’andare in altalena, che è una importante tradizione estone, è stato sempre associato con il Jaanipäev. Tutti i giovani in età da matrimonio vi partecipano. La costruivano i ragazzi - gigantesca e in legno - ed erano loro ad iniziare mentre le donne recavano doni e cantavano. Succedeva anche che il più coraggioso lanciasse l’altalena al di sopra della sbarra per fare il giro completo.

Tradizionalmente gli estoni celebrano il Giorno di Mezza Estate (che coincide con il solstizio d’estate) riunendosi per cantare, andare in altalena, e ballare attorno ad un enorme falò. Si dice che saltare il falò porti prosperità e scacci gli spiriti malvagi.

Una delle tradizioni giunte fino ai nostri giorni riguarda le donne nubili, che devono cogliere 7 fiori da 7 giardini e saltare 7 recinzioni. Devono poi comporre un mazzo con i fiori colti e metterlo sotto il cuscino quando vanno a dormire – in questo modo vedranno in sogno il loro futuro sposo, perché si dice che il Principe Azzurro verrà a prendere il bouquet mentre loro dormono.

Un’altra tradizione legata al Jaanipäev riguarda gli amanti. Esiste un mito estone che parla di due amanti Koit (Alba) e Hämarik (Tramonto), che si vedono solo una volta all’anno, e si baciano con grande rapidità perché si tratta della notte più breve dell’anno. È costume che gli innamorati cerchino il fiore della felce che fiorisce solo quella notte. Inoltre anche oggi gli estoni praticano vari riti collegati alla vita amorosa. Per esempio, si crede che i matrimoni concordati nel Giorno di Mezza Estate siano i più solidi, i più duraturi e i più felici.

MIDSUMMER DAY
MIDSUMMER DAY
MIDSUMMER DAY

SAUNA

Sauna is an important element in Estonian traditions and is not seen as a luxury treatment, but rather a necessity for cleaning both the body and the spirit. For ancient Estonians it also served as a homemade hospital – women gave birth in sauna and different diseases and colds were treated there. Estonian folklore is full of traditions that are connected to sauna.

Estonians stay in sauna where the air is heated up to 110 degrees they hit themselves with thin tree branches to improve the circulation. Together with washing the whisking ritual was also believed to have spiritually cleaning powers. This is just a preparation before jumping into the cold water or ice hole and the body cleaning procedure with honey, clay, salt and plant infusions.

The traditional sauna works on wood-fired stove not an electric heater as used in many modern saunas around the world. Fist-sized stones are placed on the top of the wood-fired stove and if they become hot enough, the water poured on the stones vaporizes.

Sauna is part of the St. John’s Night festivities, birthday and anniversary celebrations as well as company parties and a verbal contract that is concluded in sauna, would not be reneged later.

Today floating saunas on rivers and lakes, where you can directly throw yourself into the water, have become hugely popular.

A traditional sauna is absolutely one of the experiences not to miss in Estonia!

SAUNA
SAUNA

SONG FESTIVAL

This curious song festival tradition was born in Tartu in the summer of 1869. It has played a fundamental role in Estonian national awakening and liberation process and is the most distinctive cultural event in Estonia, bringing together up to 30 000 choral singers and more than 80 000 persons of audience.

For Estonians Song Festival is a highly emotional experience where everybody wants to participate to demonstrate the national spirit and to strengthen the sense of belonging.

Estonians do believe that they sang themselves free. During the Soviet times, the Song Festival was tried to be used as propaganda tool introducing some foreign songs into the repertoire. However, Estonians never gave up to sing their own national songs like for example "Land of My Fathers, Land That I Love" ("Mu isamaa on minu arm"), which during the occupation years became an unofficial anthem for the Estonians, and which, performed by the joined choirs to the standing audience, touchingly ended every Song Festival.

In November 2003, UNESCO declared Estonia’s Song and Dance Celebration tradition a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

The next Song festival and Dance Celebration will take place on 4 – 6 July 2014 and the title is “The touch of time. The touching time!” Why not come to see yourself?

THE SINGING NATION

The term "the singing nation" expresses well the Estonian identity that has united the nation in its struggle for national independence before 1918 and during the period of the Soviet occupation (1941-1991).

In 1988 began the so-called "Singing Revolution” when hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the Song Festival Grounds to make political demands for independence and sing patriotic songs. More than 300 000 people participated in a huge event entitled “The Song of Estonia” in September 1988. For the first time the re-creation of an independent Estonian state were publicly demanded. There is a belief that Estonians sang themselves free from the Soviet occupation.

DANCE FESTIVAL

The Dance Festival is a complete dance performance with a certain theme where around 8000 folklore dancers participate. The greatest Dance celebration of all times took place in 1970 with over 10 000 performers. The youngest dancer was only 4, while the oldest 76!

The dancers' eye-catching bright national-folkloristic costumes form colourful patterns.

Always starting at the same weekend, the Song Festival and the Dance Festival are inaugurated with a united festive parade through the city from the centre of Tallinn to the Song Festival Grounds.

ETHNIC HERITAGE

Estonian culture that has been influenced by the German, Swedish and Russian cultures and was long surpressed by the foreign dominating power.  The national awakening period, affected by the general Romanticism and Nationalism in Europe at the end of the 19th century, started to give importance to Estonian identity and culture.

Estonian rich cultural heritage could be described as exotic and heroic, but also romantic and modern.

Eastern Nordic heart and warm soul have inherited varied spectrum of cultural treasures. One of the characteristic features of Estonian rich cultural heritage are the ethnic minorities with their authentic ancient folk traditions, songs and costumes.

There are Seto people living in the south-eastern corner of Estonia in their unique villages, singing in choirs captivating Leelo songs and the Russian Old Believerstheir religious lifestyle and traditions, while the coastal areas and islands are strongly influences by the Swedish culture.