Sleding and sweet buns on shrove Tuesday...and other quirks of Estonian culture

Source: Rauno Liivand


Whilst Brits enjoy pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, in Estonia as is the case with many holidays, celebrations for Shrove Tuesday – Vastlapäev – are oriented around the revolving of seasons and the agricultural calendar.

One of the central traditions of Shrove Tuesday is sledging. When most Estonians were farmers, it was said that the further you slid down a snowy hill on a linen bag or sleigh, the longer your flax stems would grow the following summer. It was also forbidden to spin lamb's wool or light a fire, and advisable to cut and comb your hair.

Boiled pig's trotters (seajalad) are typically eaten alongside a pea and bean soup but the hallmark of Shrove Tuesday is the sweet bun stuffed full with whipped cream called 'vastlakukkel'. These fluffy baked goods are so popular that cafes fill with long queues of people picking up their pre-ordered buns.

Find out more here.

Here are four other unusual traditions in Estonian culture:

Estonians are tree huggers and believe that if you hug a tree, you will get energy from it. Do not shout in the woods as it is sacred.

Estonians are superstitious: they spit three times over the shoulder when a black cat walks across the road, or circles them; if two people are walking and there is an electricity pylon, post or a rubbish bin between them, then they should greet each other again, because otherwise it is bad luck. And they never whistle indoors or the house will catch fire.

Estonians do not wear shoes indoors

Estonians soak woollen socks in vodka and then wear them in bed overnight to fight off temperature and cure infections from the cold to treat themselves.