Christmas in Estonia: Christmas Eve
The president of Estonia maintains a centuries-old ceremony by declaring the Peace of Christmas each year on the afternoon of December 24. In the seventeenth century Queen Kristina of Sweden introduced this custom to Estonia.
Christmas Eve is the high point of the Christmas season. Estonians begin their celebrations by taking a sauna. Then they attend a Christmas Eve service. Sometimes parents give children new shoes and clothing to wear to this service as a kind of early Christmas gift. The traditional Christmas Eve meal consists of a large number of dishes, anywhere between seven and twelve. Sausage, brawn (boiled pork leg), pig’s head, or some other form of pork is usually served (see also boar’s head). Other popular dishes include sauerkraut, pâté, potato and beet salad, a special bread called "Christmas Barrow,” gingerbread, and beer. Folk tradition insisted that many powerful supernatural forces are active on this evening, which made it a potent time for fortune-telling, a traditional Christmas Eve activity. An abundance of food on Christmas Eve signified that the house would enjoy plenty of food in the year to come. Another superstition advised that, having eaten seven different dishes on Christmas Eve, the men of the household would gain the strength of seven men. The dead were thought to return to their old homes on Christmas Eve. Estonians left the remains of the Christmas Eve dinner on the table all night, in case the spirits wanted to refresh themselves. Estonian folklore also recommended that the fire be kept going all night.