Christmas in Estonia: Preparations
Like their counterparts in Germany and the Nordic countries, most Estonians observe Advent—a four-week period of spiritual preparation that precedes Christmas—with Advent calendars and Advent candles. The weeks before Christmas may also be filled with house-cleaning, cooking, decorating, and shopping.
Christmas straw is an important seasonal decoration in Estonia (see also Yule straw). In past times families strewed their floors with straw, which became a playground for the children. The straw reminded family members of Jesus’ birth in a stable. In some places people twisted the straw into crowns. Folklorists believe that this custom came to Estonia from Finland. The custom of fashioning Christmas crowns from straw nearly died out in the twentieth century, but was revived in the 1970s.
The Christmas tree is another prominent Christmas decoration in Estonia. Estonians prefer fir trees, but when fir is not available they will also use pine. Christmas trees became popular in the nineteenth century, when Estonians adopted the custom from Germans living in the Baltic Sea area. Some writers claim, however, that Estonian Christmas trees can be traced back to the year 1441, when one stood in front of the town hall in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital.