Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Carols Sung in Estonian

If you are looking for a few Christmas carols sung in the Estonian language here are some of the best ones I've found on YouTube.

Oh Kuusepuu

Talve Võlumaa

Sajab valget lund




Laululapsed - Lumivalgel ööl

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas is undoubtedly my most favourite time of year. I love decorating my home with all the different ornaments I have accumulated over the years, cooking delicious treats and buying gifts for my beloved family. I love nothing more than seeing the look of delight upon their faces when they open their gifts and it's clear I have chosen well (such a relief!).

This year is the second consecutive year I will be away from my family at Christmas. It's hard. Coming from a large family I'm used to a big celebration, lots of laughter, fun and games etc. Whatever I do this year will be so much quieter in comparison.  There was a big family gathering at home yesterday, a pre-Christmas party and everyone was there apart from me.  It was great to see everyone on Skype, having fun and enjoying themselves but it really made me miss them all. More so than usual.

Christmas really is the time of year when you need to reach out to those you love and let them know you care. Sometimes we may not say the words "I love you" out loud as often as we should; we might assume it's understood but the truth is, it's always good to hear. Everyone wants feel loved, valued and cherished and hearing those tender words really does warm a person's heart.  So to the special people in my life - (you know who you are!) I love you all, very, VERY MUCH! And to everybody else - Merry Christmas!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Estonia's Ice Roads

With the coming of winter comes the opportunity to do something in Estonia which you can't do everyday - travel along the country's ice roads.There are six official ice roads in Estonia connecting the mainland to the islands of Hiiumaa, Vormsi, Muhu and Kihnu across the Baltic Sea. There are also ice roads between the islands of Saaremaa and Hiumaa and between Haapsalu and Noarootsi. The longest ice road in Europe is the 26.5 km journey to Hiiumaa from the mainland.

For centuries people have taken advantage of the ice season to get across to the islands. In the 13th Century Teutonic knights used to thunder across the ice on horseback to conquer the isles but today people use the ice roads as a cheaper and more convenient method of travel, compared to paying for passage on a vehicle ferry.

There are certain road rules you must be aware of before venturing out onto the ice roads in Estonia. Ice roads open once the ice reaches a minimum thickness of 22cm and in March they can still be half a metre thick.

To ensure your journey is a safe and happy one, please keep these road rules in mind.

* Ice roads can only be used in daylight, no driving allowed after sunset.
* No vehicle heavier than 2.5t is permitted.
* The recommended speed is below 25km/h or between 40-70km/h.
* No driving is allowed between 25km/h and 40km/h. The vibrations in this speed range can be dangerous and create cracks beneath the surface.
* Vehicles travelling in the same direction must be at least 250m apart.
* Vehicles must enter the ice in three minute intervals.
* No seltbelts are to be worn when travelling across the ice in case you need to make a quick exit.


Thursday, 13 December 2012

Estonia Will Celebrate its 95th Birthday in 2013

2013 is going to be a big year in Estonia. Next year the Republic of Estonia will celebrate its 95th birthday! A webpage has been launched detailing the official programme and other events dedicated to the anniversary. The other events constitute a programme of self-initiated event celebrations, dedicated to the 95th birthday of Estonia, and can be added by everyone who wishes to do so.

The further information please click here 

Happy Birthday Estonia!
Just think, we can do it all again in five years time, when you turn 100!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Estonian Folk Costumes

Eesti Post has put together an outstanding collection of postage stamps commemorating the diversity of Estonian national costumes between the country's regions. For the past eighteen years, new stamps have been added to the catalogue and are a must own for any serious collector.

The Traditional Estonian Costume

Recently I've become increasingly interested in the history of the Estonian folk costume.
Estonica has an excellent article describing the history of Estonia's national dress and the subtle differences between regions.

Further information can be found here.

The development of Estonian folk costume was, over the centuries,       influenced by the fashions of the upper classes and the traditional     costumes of neighbouring countries. Most of all, however, the dress of our village society was influenced by well-established native traditions and customs. At the same time, folk costume denoted national belonging and social status, and both everyday and festive clothing constituted a complicated system of signs, referring to the wearer’s social status, age and marital status.
Earlier data about clothes date from the 11th–13th century archaeological material. The chief items of female clothong were a linen shirt with sleeves and a woollen shirt-like coat. A woollen wrap-skirt was wrapped round the hips and fastened with a belt. This type of clothing survived until the 19th century.
Clothes were generally divided into three parts:
  • festive clothes which were worn only on festive occasions and were handed down from generation to generation;
  • visiting clothes for errands, business and visits of less festive nature;
  • working clothes which were worn every day and which were made of poorer material and without decorations; sometimes old visiting clothes were used.

Clothes were basically made of homespun woollen or linen fabric: shirts and married women’s head-wear were mostly made from linen, while various outer garments, gloves, stockings and socks, were made from wool. Most of the clothes remained undyed: linen garments were bleached white, woollen outer garments were mainly sheep-brown or black. The wool for making skirts was dyed with herbal dyes. The bedstraw root was particularly widely used to produce red colouring. Indigo was the first dye to be widely bought during the 18th century.
Young men and women received a complete set of festive clothes for confirmation, which marked their coming of age. There was no marked difference between the clothes of a bachelor and a married man; but a strict difference was maintained between the clothes of a girl and those of a married woman and also between the garments of a wife and of a widow. A girl did not cover her head in summer and partly even in winter, using only a ribbon or a garland to fix her hair and decorate it. A girl also did not wear an apron in most parts of Estonia. A married woman, on the other hand, had to cover her hair and wear an apron. It was believed that an apronless mistress of the farm would damage the fertility of the fields. A pregnant girl had to wear an apron as well.
Both the jewellery and ornaments on clothing did not have a purely decorative effect; they had to protect the wearer against all evil.Festive clothing comprised all sorts of finery, but some items were also worn with everyday clothes. Parents gave festive finery to their daughters on their attainment of maidenhood; for that purpose a wealthier farmer was even prepared to sell a cow or a young ox. Finery, as precious objects, was handed down from generation to generation. The mother's finery was usually inherited by an elder daughter, or in case of no daughters, it went to the wife of the eldest son.
Beads were traditionally worn every day. White and colourful glass or stone beads were put round a little girl's neck when she cut her first tooth. A woman wore her beads day and night, at a party or at work, and took them to her grave with her. Beads were believed to bring good health, and those who did not wear them were considered unlucky.
Although Estonia is small, there were numerous local differences in folk costume. Four major groups can be mentioned here — Southern, Northern, Western Estonia, and the Islands. The condition of serfdom in which the peasantry lived was largely responsible for the way in which local differences were formed and preserved. People moved around mostly within the borders of their home parish. The principal meeting point was the church. Local traditions of dress were strictly maintained. It is known, for example, that a woman in Saaremaa who married into another parish, wore her local clothes until her death, whereas her daughters clothed themselves in garments typical of their father's parish.

The jewellery of Setu women is especially fancy and meaningful. A Setu bride had to have at least two kilos of silver around her neck at her wedding and if she did not possess that much silver, it had to be borrowed. Amongst items of clothing, belts and mittens were believed to have the most protective powers. Mittens were supposed to protect the wearer from hostile people or forces. While dealing with important matters, woollen mittens were worn also in summer or tucked in your belt.
New fashions were most readily accepted in Northern parishes. In the 18th century, wide skirts, initially of a single colour, then striped, spread widely and became quite common in the 19th century. A long-sleeved blouse with geometrical decorations or hemstitch was a typical garment as well.

Southern Estonia
Southern Estonian folk costume was characterised by the survival of several very old types of garments. Old traditions in clothing were especially well preserved in Mulgimaa. Various influences were still noticeable: South-Võrumaa clothes had similarities with those of Latvians, features of Russian clothing spread in the entire South Estonia (red cotton thread in embroidery and woven patterns).
The dress of the setu, contained numeroud elements of Russian style. Men, for example, wore a belted caftan over their trousers, the women wore a garment resembling the Russian sarafan instead of skirts.
The most characteristic feature of Northern Estonian folk costumes was the wearing by women of a short loose long-sleeved midriff blouse over a sleeveless shirt. North Estonia was characterised by floral design that was embroidered on sleeves and coifs. Pot-caps were worn by women.

Northern Estonia
Northern Estonian clothes tended to be relatively homogeneous. At the same time this region was most susceptible to innovations. In coastal areas, Finnish influence was quite marked; the northern coasts of Lake Peipsi displayed Russian and Votian features. Various European fashionable items of clothing became popular in the Tallinna area and from there spread all over the country: breeches and short-coat for men, striped skirts and woollen garments dyed indigo.
Western Estonia
West Estonian folk costumes had several features in common with those of Southern and Northern Estonia. The area was characterised by sheep-brown and black outer garments. Women wore a long-sleeved blouse with a jacket over it, a bodice and a scarf folded into a triangle. Striped skirts became common by the early 19th century, from the middle of the century onwards, checked skirts also came into use, especially in Western parts of the country. Headgear differed considerably by parishes: various coifs were worn in southern parts, pot-caps and stocking caps and hoof-shaped caps in the north.
In order to carry necessary items with them at all times, women tied a cloth bag to their belts and decorated it lavishly with beads, galloons or appliqué. Hiiumaa women wore on ther belts a leather strap covered with copper plaques from which hung copper chains. A sheathed knife and a needle-case were carried in the copper belt.

Folk costume of the islands (Saare-, Muhu- and Hiiumaa) differed considerably; in Saaremaa even by parishes. They had many common features with the dress of Estonian Swedes, for example the pleated skirts. In the 19th century, the earlier single-colour skirts became striped. An apron was also worn by adolescent girls. In Hiiumaa, women wore long-sleeved midriff blouses, in Saaremaal shirts and bodices (sleeveless jackets). Shoes were generally worn, only on the Muhu island people walked round in peasant-shoes (soft heelless shoes of leather).
Due to urbanisation in the second half of the 19th century, folk costumes became less used. At the same time, during the so-called national awakening, it became increasingly popular in Estonia to wear folk costume on festive occasions: at song festivals and various national events. A more widespread usage of folk costumes as national festive clothing started at the beginning of the 20th century. Folk costumes today basically mean the festive clothing dating from the first half of the 19th century.