Tag Archives: joy

“Ära hõiska enne õhtut.” – Estonian Proverb

Informant’s Background:

The informant, in this case, is my mother, M, who was a first generation immigrant born to an Estonian family in the North-East of Canada. Her family had escaped from occupied Estonia, and had settled in Canada before she was born. She moved with my father to Los Angeles, in the United States, to take a job as a university professor. My brother and I were born a few years after.


I mentioned collecting folklore to my mother, who I regularly call on the phone now that I have moved out of our house, and she told me that she wanted to help. I told her yes, and she emailed me the following.


  • Original: “Ära hõiska enne õhtut.”
  • Translation: Don’t shout for joy before night.

Informant’s Explanation:

M: “This means not to celebrate good fortune too soon; there are many ways things can go wrong; wait until you are sure. Until then, keep that icy face.”

Informant’s Thoughts: 

M: “This speaks to the Estonian temperament, which is the product of centuries of hardship and a cold northern climate. Estonians are a “glass half-full” kind of people; they are naturally pessimistic, always seeing or fearing trouble on the horizon. This is understandable, but I disagree. When you have good fortune, you should rejoice. You can rejoice without taking it for granted, without counting your chickens before they hatch (to quote another proverb). “


I think my mother did a good job of explaining this one. Her comparison to the English proverb “don’t count your chickens before they hatch”, is a very good comparison as the two proverbs essentially carry the same meaning, although the message is conveyed through different imagery. Furthermore, I think that the night takes on a different meaning in colder climates, such as that of Estonia, where nightfall can actually be a dangerous and bleak time due to the cold.