Moving holiday – Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter
To our ancestors Pentecost mainly meant the beginning of summer and, unlike many other holidays, it was rather associated with having fun on the swings, going to dancing parties and the beginning of the courting period than work. One of the necessary elements of Pentecost was bringing a birch tree indoors or taking one to the door of your loved one. If you do not feel like taking a birch tree to your girlfriend’s place today (or it will be complicated to fit into her small flat), a bunch of pretty wild flowers will certainly make her feel good!
15 June – Saint Vitus Day
There is not much information about Saint Vitus Day. A saying goes that it was not worth planting cabbage after this day, but sowing buckwheat was recommended.
Holiday-makers, please note: sunny weather on Saint Vitus Day does not mean good luck; it means that summer will be poor.
21 June - summer solstice
While cabbage planting had to be completed before Saint Vitus Day, summer solstice was the latest day to do it otherwise there will not be anything to take from the vegetable patch in autumn.
Judging by our ancestors’ sayings, it seems that because no sowing was allowed anymore, people would sit down on the porch and start foretelling weather.
Maybe we should take some observations into account too so that we are not that dependent on weather forecasters: if a nightingale keeps singing late in the evening, autumn will come early and coldish; and if some sunlight can be seen, good hay making weather is to be expected.
23 June – Saint John’s Eve
The best description of Saint John’s Day is a Viru County saying: Saint John’s Day is a day of beauty and happiness for all and the day set for remembering Saint John the wise. All animals and people alike had to be blessed with light. And a huge bonfire had to be made.
So we can give no other advice but for you to enjoy the longest and lightest night of the year next to the fire! There is enough space for everyone around the big bonfires of Saint John’s Eve at the Open Air Museum!
Besides, there is a lot of good music, romance, swinging songs, mysteries of Saint John’s Eve, omens and games necessary for celebrating this day properly!
27 June – Saint Sampson’s Day
Not much is known about Saint Sampson’s Day. Old people say that its Estonian name ‘Seven Sleepers’ Day’ refers to the occasion when seven brothers fell asleep in church or on the way to church.
Opinions vary as to what will happen if it rains on this day. It is believed in Kadrina that it will keep raining for seven weeks in a row, but the population of Sangaste thinks rain will only last for seven days. However the people of Kolga-Jaani expect consequences in the form of autumn rains.
What can you say? Pay attention to weather this year and let us know too!
2 July – Visitation
The Estonian name for this day is ‘Hay Mary’s Day’ which implies that it is related to hay in one way or another. In some areas of Estonia hay making would start, in other regions this day would mark the middle of hay making season, and somewhere else it was even believed that people had better take a break from haying on this day. All of that definitely depended on the weather.
If there is no need for making hay, this is a good day for picking cloudberries. It is hard to say ‘no’ to a little nice jar of cloudberry jam. Try to ask older relatives and friends where you can find good cloudberry spots and go look for it on a marsh!
And if you intend to dye yarn with natural ingredients, you should know that the plants gathered today will produce the most intensive colour.
10 July – Seven Brothers’ Day
Here is the legend about Seven Brothers’ Day commonly told in Väike-Maarja region.
There once lived seven brothers, who practiced their ancient Estonian faith, but when Germans came to plant their faith, the brothers refused to convert to it and were burnt for three days; their mother Maret later shared their fate. They are believed to have uttered a curse, and weather wisdom says that if it rains on Seven Brothers’ Day, it will keep raining for seven more weeks, but if there is so much sunlight as a man needs to jump upon a horse’s back, there will be much more.
We must admit that people still pay attention to this sign and it has proven quite right. Have you noticed whether the sun has been out today?
13 July – Maret’s Day
Numerous stories about this day have been around. It was believed that another name of this day meaning ‘the day of the woolly one’ could refer to the day of paying respect to the bear; folklore collectors of later periods developed the idea and told stories about a person called Maret, who was born covered with hair and became the ancestor of bears. However, folklore sources do not prove that version.
What should you pay attention to today? Fishermen could profit from knowing that fish is especially fat on Maret’s Day while holiday-makers and farmers should notice the weather today, which will foretell the weather for the next seven weeks, instead of checking forecasts online. If it rains, you are in for seven more weeks of rain, and if it does not, it will remain dry for another seven weeks.
20 July – Saint Elijah’s Day
This day is mostly celebrated in Setomaa. Working is strictly forbidden: if you do not worship Saint Elijah’s Day, lightning will strike you.
Although it is often the warmest in Estonia at the end of July, old people still believe that this day marks the beginning of late summer, when heat subsides and water becomes colder.
All of the above means you should use what is left of the summer well!
22 July – Saint Mary Magdalene’s Day
Similarly to other countries of Western Europe, this day is associated with the cult of Saint Mary Magdalene. The only folk saying about it stated that starting with this day people who had used up last year’s grain could get ‘emergency bread’ made of this year’s grain.
What can we recommend these days? You could think about your ancestors and bake some delicious rye bread from scratch. The housewives of Härjapea farm at the museum can give you a good recipe!
25 July – Saint James’ Day
Saint James’ Day is considered to be the turn of the summer and marks the beginning of late summer. This is when hay making is finished and the harvesting period starts. This day was also when girls started to gather to work together on Thursday and Sunday evenings, and the meetings took place until Annunciation in spring. They used to do handicraft and sing songs; sometimes young men and musicians would visit and then the evening became a dancing party.
As half of the summer is actually still ahead, and nobody would like to start looking for the autumn coat, there is one old ritual that is supposed to guarantee good weather in August. Namely, if you have a cat, this is the day to pet it well and give it fish and some sandwich. Then the cat is supposed to bring good weather for the harvesting season!
26 July – Saint Anne’s Day
This holiday is mainly known in Setomaa. This is when people commemorated Saint Anne, protector of sheep, and went to ‘Anne’s Stone’ and the chapel to bring a sacrifice of sheep heads, legs and wool. The priest kept a part of the produce, and the other part was given to the poor.
As our ancestors tried to have a meal of fresh lamb, veal or at least chicken and new potatoes on Saint Anne’s Day, you too could put a delicious dinner together. Get good local new potatoes at the market (or from your own vegetable patch) and buy a chunk of local meet or some other vegetables. Make a pot stew and enjoy! Think about our ancestors who would have spent half a year waiting for such a blessing…
29 July – Saint Olaf’s Day
Saint Olaf’s Day used to be mainly celebrated on the western coast and the nearby islands. Similarly to other holidays of this time of the year, Saint Olaf’s day symbolises the transition to consuming this year’s crop.
One of the most important traditions of Saint Olaf’s day was killing the sacrificial lamb: it was supposed to protect cattle from diseases and evil eye.
A tip for romantics: it is starting from Saint Olaf’s Day that the starry sky is especially beautiful at night.
1 August – Holy Maccabean Martyrs’ Day
For Setos, Holy Maccabean Martyrs’ Day was when they worshipped water. On this day water was blessed in the church during a prayer.
There is nothing much to recommend to modern people for this day. Just think about what you can do to keep or natural water bodies cleaner…
10 August – Saint Lawrence’s Day
Saint Lawrence’s Day is one of the many holidays that mark the beginning of the harvesting period. Still there is one aspect that makes Saint Lawrence’s day unique: the beliefs related to fire. It was considered better to refrain from anything to do with lighting fire on this day in early August: heating the kiln or the stove in the summer kitchen and even lighting a candle was forbidden because it could bring on a fire. To avert danger, a sauna switch and a bucket of water were left on the stove for Saint Lawrence to take a bath.
You should observe the fire restriction as well. Better safe than sorry!
And for bee-keepers, Saint Lawrence’s Day is the time to start chasing old drone bees from the beehive.
15 August - Assumption of Mary Day
This day marks the time for sowing rye. To be more precise, a folk belief states that rye sowing should be started three days before the Assumption. A break had to be made for the holiday itself; otherwise rye would be poor. Sowing was allowed for other three days after the Assumption of Mary Day.
We recommend gardeners reserve a lot of time and find some large baskets. They say that this day brings plenty of berries, which are very good for making delicious and comforting jam you can enjoy in winter.
18 August – Florus’ and Laurus’ Day
Florus’ and Laurus’ Day is primarily known in the areas where Russian settlers lived. There is little information about it. Mainly what folklore says is that it was horses’ holiday, and they could not be used for work.
As far as advice goes, we should probably also let our horses (read ‘cars’) have a rest today and should go to work, shops, the beach or anywhere else on foot or by bicycle.
19 August – Paschal Day
Paschal day is one of many Setos’ holidays. Its other name, ‘apple day’ explains its meaning better. Namely, eating apples and other fruit was allowed after Paschal Day. To make sure there is good yield, people brought apples to the church to give away and for blessing.
You too should check your garden today to see if any red-cheeked fruit is ready to be picked up. Also, you can safely buy local apples at the market starting from this day.
24 August – Saint Bartholomew’s Day
Saint Bartholomew’s Day marks the beginning of autumn. It is the time when ground frosts start, swallows begin leaving for the south, and cows yield less milk. On the other hand, it is a good period to start gathering honey; nuts are ripening and lots of mushrooms grow.
So this is the right time you grabbed your basket and went to look for good mushroom picking places. When you are in the woods, please remember that the nature is to be protected and respected. Otherwise you will have nothing to do there next year.
29 august – ‘Ivanoskorona’ in Seto (on the date of Saint John’s Beheading Feast)
In Estonia this holiday has only been celebrated in Setomaa. Folklore has retained very little about the rituals traditional for this day. We only know that men named Ivan had to buy a bottle of drink because it was their name-day. Cutting vegetables was forbidden too.
Well, what to say? Ivans and Jaans and anyone else can buy a bottle of drink. It is not specified if it is supposed to be hard liquor. We would rather recommend buying a bottle of good local juice. It will give you strength for the dark autumn that is about to arrive.