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Photo by: Mai-Liis Mägi

Photo by: Maret Põldveer-Turay

How to celebrate Easter like a true Estonian

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In 2019 we celebrate Easter in Estonia from April 19th to April 21st. Good Friday and Easter Sunday are public holidays, but Easter Monday is a regular day in Estonia. 

Rather than a religious holiday, Easter is usually seen as a celebration of spring in Estonia. As any other popular holiday, Easter also has many different names in the Estonian language. The official name for Easter in Estonian is lihavõtted. Other nicknames for the holiday are munapühad (egg holidays), ülestõusmispühad (resurrection holidays), kiigepühad (swing holidays) and kevadpühad (spring holidays).

Here are three tips on how to celebrate Easter like a true Estonian. You can do these while in Tallinn or try them at home.

Decorations

Easter is the period when we celebrate the light overcoming darkness. Nature starts to wake up again after a long period of winter: birds are singing, the grass begins to grow, and trees show signs of life again.
 
Willow branches are the symbol of health, success and happiness. On Palm Sunday, Estonians like to bring them inside as a decoration. The branches are put in a vase, where they will stand through the whole Easter.

This is a great way to spread the joy of spring also inside your home (or hotel room). The best way to get willow branches in Tallinn is to buy them at the local market. You’ll find them everywhere during Easter.

Activities

For Easter Sunday, Estonians like to decorate eggs. You can boil the eggs with water and onion skins or vibrant colouring tablets available at almost any store in Tallinn. Once you have the hard-boiled decorated eggs, you are ready to start the most popular activity of Estonian Easter – munade koksimine.

Munade koksimine is an egg competition. In this competition, each contestant will choose one hard-boiled egg that he or she will use. One pair at a time, the contestants hit their eggs together, and the contestant whose egg does not break goes on to the next round. In the end, you’ll have one intact egg – the winner of the egg competition.

This is a fun way to start your Easter Sunday at the hotel breakfast. Challenge your friends and other guests into a proper Estonian egg competition!

Gastronomy

Like any other holiday, Easter is also a feast of good food. There will be meat on the table, and of course dishes made with eggs or quark. Estonians also enjoy eating pasha, a festive dessert, during Easter holidays.

Estonian Open Air Museum has shared the recipes for many traditional dishes on their website, including one for pasha from the 1930s.

See the recipe below and try to make this traditional dessert at home. You can also find pasha from local grocery stores in Tallinn.

PASHA 
2 kg cottage cheese
5 eggs
2 glasses heavy (whipping) cream
300–400 g fresh butter
3–4 glasses sugar (to taste)
a pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean or some vanillin
optional: raisins, currants, candied peel or chopped nuts

Strain the cottage cheese to remove the whey, and rub through a fine sieve into an enamel or aluminium pan; beat the eggs and sugar with a spoon; melt the butter and pour it onto the cottage cheese. Then pour in the cream, add flavourings and, optionally, raisins, currants, nuts or candied peel and bring the mixture almost to boil, stirring constantly (do not allow boiling!). Let the mixture cool and put it into a pasha mould lined with linen cloth dampened in cold water; if you do not have a mould, use a new flower pot soaked in cold water and lined with cheesecloth. Place a lightweight in the mould. Next day, remove the pasha from the mould and decorate it with buttercream, pieces of orange, marmalade and wafers if you wish. Pasha is served as a dessert with tea, coffee or a cold beverage. (“Taluperenaine” magazine, the 1930s)

If you are in Tallinn on April 21st, join the Easter celebrations at the Estonian Open Air Museum!

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