Sledging and sweet buns on Shrove Tuesday

Source: Visit Estonia

Sledging and sweet buns on Shrove Tuesday

This centuries old holiday rejoicing the coming of spring is beloved by children and adults in Estonia. Go sledging for good luck, eat a bun piled high with whipped cream and dance into the night.

Looking towards spring  

Shrove Tuesday (Vastlapäev in Estonian) is celebrated by many branches of Christians as the last day of feasting and fun before the Lent period preceding Easter. The holiday falls on a different day each year, seven weeks before Easter, either in February or March. In some countries this day is celebrated as 'Mardi Gras', and in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and Canada the day is aptly called 'Pancake Tuesday', because a rich meal of pancakes is served. In Estonia, as is the case with many holidays, Shrove Tuesday celebrations are oriented around the revolving of seasons and the agricultural calendar.

Sledging for luck

Slide as far as you can 

Traditionally, the longer the sledge ride, the longer the stems of the flax crop would grow during the summer. 

Photo by: Kaarel Mikkin

One of the central traditions of Shrove Tuesday is sledging. In the old days, when most Estonians were farmers, it was said that the farther you slid down a snowy hill on a linen bag or sleigh, the longer your flax stems should grow the following summer. Friendly competitions were held between neighbours to see who could sledge the farthest. Further entertainment came from spinning tops (vurr) made of pigs' hooves. On Shrove Tuesday people played, dined and danced in to the evening. On this day, it was forbidden to spin lamb's wool or light a fire, and advisable to cut and comb your hair.

Buns, soup and pig's feet

Traditionally, a pig was slaughtered and served during Christmas, so by late February or early March, all that remained were the legs. Boiled pig's trotters (seajalad) were served along with a pea and bean soup, which is still quite popular nowadays. It was said you should not lick the grease from your hands or face after eating the fatty pig's trotters, for it would protect you from being cut by anything sharp on this day. Pigs feet aside, the hallmark of Shrove Tuesday is the sweet bun stuffed full with whipped cream called 'vastlakukkel'. The fluffy baked goods are so popular that cafes fill with long queues of people picking up their preordered buns or scrambling to buy some; late-comers may find no buns at all, so better to be early!

Last updated : 10.02.2022

In category: History & culture, Activities & Adventure, Food & Drink & Nightlife