Christmas in Estonia
Estonians trace some of their Christmas customs back to a pre-Christian midwinter festival called Yule. The Estonian word for Christmas, Jõulud, comes from the Scandinavian word Jul, which in turn is related to the English word Yule. Estonian folklorists believe that before Christianity came to Estonia, people celebrated this midwinter festival at the time of the winter solstice. Early Christmas celebrations lasted about seventeen days, from St. Thomas’s Day, December 21, to Epiphany, January 6. In coastal areas people ended their celebrations on January 7, which they observed as St. Knut’s Day. During this festive period people feasted on special foods and refrained from certain kinds of work. Today most ethnic Estonians are Protestant Christians (Lutherans), but the country also hosts a sizeable minority of Orthodox and other Christians.