In the Estonian Folk Calendar, Kavadepüha or Spring Holiday falls anywhere between 16 March and 20 April in the week leading up to Easter. This week was important for completing household chores, such as cleaning after a long winter. The weather during this week could apparently predict the weather for the summer. If it was raining, then a wet summer was to follow and if there was fog, then this meant a hot summer was in store.
Good Thursday and Good Friday
Good Thursday was considered a partial holiday in preparation for Good Friday. Lighter meals, like soup were consumed. The type of soup eaten varied by region, but the one thing they had in common, was everyone rested on Good Friday. It was a rare occasion that anyone actually left their houses on that day.
"Good Friday is such an important holiday that even the ant doesn't leave his nest, nor does the leaf fall from the tree"
- Eesti Rahvakalender
Much like today, Easter Sunday was a day full of festivities. This was usually the day when eggs were exchanged or given as gifts. Young people would meet at the nearby village swing and girls would give the Easter eggs they decorated to the boys as a thank you for building the swing they would then spend their afternoon on. People would gather in their homes or at the local pub and exchange eggs as gifts. Eggs were also incorporated in the meals, usually in the form of an egg butter or spread.
Although many store-bought dyes may be easier to use, the tradition of using natural dyes is still very common today. According to the Estonian Folk Calendar, the colours had meaning: pink- gentle, green- hope, blue- fidelity, yellow- falsehood, and grey- balance. Girls would let the boys choose an Easter egg and depending on which they chose, the girls would then be able to judge their personalities.
Easter customs and springtime traditions varied throughout different regions of Estonia. Every year, the Estonian Open Air Museum in Tallinn celebrates some of these old Easter traditions. You can also visit Setomaa in Southern Estonia to learn more about their customs as well.
Source: Eesti Rahvakalender II, compiled by Mall Hiiemäe, Tallinn: Kirjastus "Eesti Raamat", 1981.