Halloween and other spooky holidays in Estonia

Merje Aus | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Scary Halloween costumes, pumpkin faces, and witches have not been very popular in Estonia until recent years. As a matter of fact, Estonia has so many holidays to honor the dead and for children to go trick or treating in costumes, that western customs such as Halloween are often only seen in Hollywood movies. But, since the rest of the world celebrates Halloween, Estonians also wanted to take part in it. So, every year, more and more parties and events take place during Halloween, mainly in the big cities. However, it is not considered as spooky as in other countries. It might actually be the least spooky holiday in Estonia, compared with the ones with peculiar traditions like leaving the bread at your relatives' graves.

Day to remember the departed loved ones

Estonia has an important holiday, All Souls’ Day to celebrate the dead. Not to be confused with Halloween, it takes place between October 31st and November 2nd. But there is no running around in costumes and dressing up. It is a quiet holiday when people light up candles in their homes and remember the loved ones who have passed away. It is believed that the souls visit us during those nights to see how we are doing and it is considered a bad habit not to light a candle to welcome them. Some even leave a chunk of bread and a glass of vodka so that the dead could have a little past-midnight snack. 

© iStock/ Grandfailure

Kadripäev and Mardipäev – Halloween

All Souls’ Day is not the favorite holiday of children (there is nothing fun in the belief about your dead relatives coming to visit). Hence, in November, two other very important holidays are especially exciting for children. They are Mardipäev and Kadripäev (Martinmas and St. Catherine’s Day). They are equivalent to the western traditions of Halloween, but you won't see unicorn costumes there. On Martinmas, children dress up as drifters and go from door to door, asking for goodies. It was an ancient custom to collect gifts for monasteries during medieval times. On the St. Catherine’s Day, the traditions are the same, but children dress up as women instead of men. In fact, there is no trick-or-treating there – children must learn songs or dances and perform them before they get any candy. And families always welcome the mummers, because they bring good luck with the crop. Not that many people living in apartments need good luck with the crop… but it can't hurt to honor the tradition, right?

New traditions make their way into Estonia

The younger generation of Estonia mostly celebrates Halloween. Older people start to get used to it, but if you go trick-or-treating, some older grumpy grandmas and grandpas might tell you to come back on Mardipäev, as we don’t live in the USA! But walking around the city, every year you see more and more Halloween events and people in costumes. It is not hard to find a Halloween theme party in Tallinn Old Town – every big club has something special planned for the night. Should you visit Venus Club or some other popular club in Tallinn, you will definitely find a big costume party there. 

© iStock/ gorodenkoff

Estonia is just getting acquainted with Halloween customs, adopting them from western cultures. Compared to the older Estonian traditions, such as All Souls’ Day, it might even be the least spooky holiday in Estonia

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