Estonian Folk Calendar

Background: The informant is a 48-year-old woman who was born in Estonia and immigrated to the United States, and currently lives in California. She still participates in Estonian traditions by attending the “Estonian House” which is an Estonian community located in Los Angeles.

Context: The folklore was collected during a scheduled zoom meeting in which I interviewed two native Estonians who currently live in Los Angeles and who are close friends.

Main Piece:

Informant: “The national calendar, ‘rahvakalender’ (folk calendar). Estonian people, everybody from top to bottom, especially the farmers, they live by that ‘rahvakalender’. For example, today (April 23) is ‘jüripäev’. Jüripäev is where everyone would start to put the crops down, and of course it is a saint’s day. I do not know which saint it is in English, but many important things have to do with ‘rahvakalender’. It’s like everything went by it, for example, ‘jüripäev’ today is when the crops started going down and by ‘mihklipäev’ in September the 29th, I remember that because it is my father’s birthday anniversary, every crop had to be in ‘salves’ which means in the shed or cellar, because after that, the frost came.”

Collector: “So the calendar is mainly for farming and stuff like that? Or was it for other things as well?”

Informant: “It is, it is. But it mostly has to do with farming because that was most important for staying alive. So you have in February, we just had that Shrove Tuesday, it’s a church holiday, but its also in Estonia its when young people would go out to sleigh. So who got the longest sleigh ride got the longest crops of linen. And also, you didn’t cut your hair on certain days because if you cut your hair on certain days in ‘rahvakalender’ your hair didn’t grow, but if you cut your hair on certain days in ‘rahvakalender’ that were to cut the hair, your hair grew back a lot. So there is a lot of so called “wisdom” in those. All of these old people lived like that, they didn’t live by the numbered calendar.”

Interpretation: Estonian culture is heavily based in unity and coming together, so I was not surprised to find that Estonians have a fairly strict calendar that dictates everything from cutting hair to storing away crops for the winter. The fact that the informant emphasizes how farming was the main use of ‘rahvakaleder’ is a testament to how Estonian culture is not one of glory or lavishness, but rather one of peasantry and survival. A massive majority of Estonian tales, proverbs, riddles, and various other traditions are heavily based in farming, survival, and unity. The folk calendar reflects this emphasis on farming and survival in Estonian culture and traditions.

The informant also pointed me to an Estonian folklore archive that contains more information on ‘rahvakalender’: