Traditional Christmas Greeting: "Roomsaid Joulupuhija ja Head ut Aastat"
Location: Eastern Europe
Tree Type: Cultural
Decorations: The Museum's Estonian Christmas tree is decorated with mittens, sashes and lace stars to represent Estonian culture. Small Estonian flags also ornament it to remind people of Estonia's heritage.
Traditions: The holiday season in Estonia, often called Yuletide, begining with St. Thomas' day on December 21st and ending with Epiphany on January 6th, has traditionally been a time of relaxation and plenty. Estonians abstain from all but the most necessary work, using their time instead to decorate villages, visit friends and prepare the lavish meals that symbolize having sufficient food during the coming year. The President of Estonia officially declares "Christmas Peace," an Estonian tradition dating back more than 350 years to the first order of Queen Kristina of Sweden in the 17th century.
As Christmas Eve draws even nearer, families bring straw into their homes and use it to cover the floors and create Christmas crowns that model church chandeliers. The straw, symbolic of Jesus' birth in a stable, becomes a playground for children throughout the yuletide season. Christmas Eve itself begins with a cleansing trip to the nearest sauna. Children are often given new clothes and shoes to wear to evening services and the festive meal that follows. After leaving church, families return to a meal of fried goose or turkey, potatoes, cabbage or apples, and cookies called Pipparkogid made from peppercorn, cocoa and cinnamon.
Though Christmas trees and Santa Claus are relatively recent Christmas customs in Estonia, they have been integrated into many families' celebrations. Many trees are decorated simply with sweets, candles and small toys, while others are much more elaborate. The yuletide season continues past celebrations of the New Year. Estonians return to life as usual after Epiphany on January 6th.