Spring Day 2017 and 2018
Spring Day, called “Kevadpuha” in Estonian and coinciding with both May Day and International Workers Day (Labour Day), is an Estonian public holiday falling on every May 1st.
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Spring Day has ancient roots and is a celebration of the coming of spring after a long, hard Estonian winter.
Festivities begin on Spring Day Eve, which is called “Volbrioo” in Estonia and known as “Walpurgis Night” in Germany, where it has its original roots. Walpurgis Night is based on an ancient, pagan German belief that witches would gather on May Day Eve on Mount Brocken in the wooded hill country of central Germany. The night is still observed, if with less faith in the tale of the witches which occasioned the holiday, in many countries of central and eastern Europe, including throughout all Estonia.
On April 30th, many Spring Day celebrations commence in Estonia, continuing past midnight into the wee hours of May 1st. Some simply eat, drink, make merry, dance, and enjoy the warm, spring weather. Others go a step further and dress up like witches, which may make tourists a bit confused as to whether Halloween has somehow been moved to April. The overall spirit of the Spring Day Eve celebrations is much like that of a carnival, with night-long feasting and huge bonfires thrown in.
Come Spring Day morning, traditions are starkly different. May poles, tall poles wrapped in greenery and decorated with ribbons are set up, as also in other nearby east European nations like Lithuania and Poland. Tradition says that the May pole has the power to make a couple fall in love. Marriage proposals may even occur under a May pole, but if it is a leap year, it is the women who are expected to pop the question in Estonia.
Certain other Spring Day traditions have come to Estonia from other lands. Lilies, for example, are given out, but this began as a French tradition in the 17th Century. Doughnut cakes, essentially a funnel cake with a different name, are eaten on Spring Day, but doughnut cakes originate from Finland.
Activities during Spring Day
Should you visit Estonia on or around May 1st, some things to do include:
- Attend Spring Day Eve celebrations in Tartu, where university students will march through the streets in a parade at night and where the usual bonfires, feasting, and other revelry are especially strongly engaged in.
- Attend the International Prima Vista Literary Festival in Tartu, which begins around May 5th and continues into July. Anyone interested in literature at all will find it fascinating, and it is the perfect chance to get a good introduction to Estonian literary classics.
- Go to the Spring Day concert held in Tallinn, where you can experience Estonian music firsthand, played by Estonia’s most popular musicians. Also, from late April through early May, Jazzkaar, a large jazz festival that has run every year since 1990, is held in Tallinn. Jazzkaar continues for 10 straight days and brings in talent from the Estonia, the other Baltic states, and from all over Europe.
Spring Day is essentially a unique name for a holiday otherwise known as May Day or Labour Day in other European countries. Estonians, however, celebrate Spring Day uniquely enough to justify the difference in name, besides holding boisterous festivals on the eve of Spring Day.