Eat Christmas dinner like an Estonian

Source: Aron Urb, Visit Estonia

Eat Christmas dinner like an Estonian

If you find yourself in Estonia during the winter holidays, enjoying a local Christmas dinner is a must. Find out why the Christmas feast is such a meaningful event, which Estonian dishes to look for, and where you can have a feast of your own. 

Winter sustenance 

Winter delights

Apples grow abundantly on trees in Estonia, but some types of talveõun (winter apple) are harvested late in the year and last through the winter. 

Photo by: Jarek Jõepera

The Estonian way of life is based on the turning of the seasons and the bounty of nature. Berries are collected in the summer, while fruits, vegetables, grains, potatoes and mushrooms are harvested in the autumn. These goods, along with farmed and wild game meats, are pickled, salted, smoked and otherwise preserved to fill the pantries through the winter. With the advent of commercial markets it is no longer essential to preserve goods at home, however the practice remains popular in the countryside and is increasingly making its way back into modern day kitchens.

Classic dishes and traditions 

Potatoes, pickles, preserves

Vegetables, fruits, grains and potatoes harvested earlier in the year and preserved provide food for the Christmas feast. 

Photo by: Toomas Tuul

Winter dishes are hearty and filling, to provide energy and warmth in the cold weather. The food of the Christmas feast is no exception, and staples include verivorst (blood sausage), sült (jellied head cheese), hapukapsas (sauerkraut), oven-roasted potatoes and pork. Special Christmas bread is baked along with gingerbread, often an activity for the whole family. Apples and mandarin oranges are also enjoyed as Christmas treats.

The Christmas meal itself, eaten on Christmas Eve or the night of Christmas, is an important family event originating from pagan times. There were to be seven, nine or twelve servings of food to bring good luck and plenty for next year's harvest. Food was to remain on the table all night long, and it was forbidden to peek under the table, for this was a sacred place where spirits dwelled and any food dropped was left there.

Where to dine 

The following restaurants offer holiday fare to give you a taste of Christmas in Estonia.

Wealthy merchant's feast 

Olde Hansa serves a multi-course Christmas meal mid November through mid January including bear, wild boar and elk sausages. 

Photo by: Toomas Tuul


Restaurant suggestions:

Tallinn

  • Restaurant OKO is located in the beautiful Haabneeme beach. The menu focuses on slow fast food, which is perfect for sharing.
  • Olde Hansa, a medieval restaurant in Tallinn's Old Town, recreates a 15th century dining experience, complete with candlelight and live music.
  • Kaerajaan's interior and menu are inspired by traditional Estonian cuisine with a modern twist. Enjoy your Christmas dinner by Tallinn's Town Hall Square.
  • Farm, one of Estonia's top restaurants, combines the rustic elements of local Estonian products with high class culinary performance in central Tallinn.

Northern Estonia

Southern Estonia

  • The Hansa Tall tavern in Tartu is constructed in Hanseatic style for a cosy medieval atmosphere on Christmas.
  • Restaurant & café Harmoonia in Viljandi serves a special Christmas offer. The cosy restaurant focuses on local ingredients, including pork, potato and other vegetables come from farms in Viljandi County, and uses only organic beef and lamb.

Western Estonia

  • Villa Ammende's hotel restaurant in Pärnu serves Christmas dinners out of this excellently preserved art nouveau mansion. 
  • Cafe Kroon, in Pärnu, was established during the era of the previous Estonian currency - the kroon - and serves new interpretations of popular local specialties like pork roast, sauerkraut and potato salad. They also feature a vegan Christmas menu!

Islands

  • Restaurant Saaremaa Veski operates out of an authentic windmill from 1899 in Kuressaare. Their menu has different wild game meats, smoked fish, house drinks made from local berries, house wine made from local apples, and their own Veski beer.
  • Georg Ots Spa Hotel Restaurant, also in Kuressaare, is situated in a modern spa worth a visit during the chilly winter. Their dishes use all fresh ingredients, mostly from the island of Saaremaa itself.
Last updated : 16.11.2020
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