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Estonia holiday pastries test
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Semla with jam and whipped cream (Vastlakukkel)
Holiday description: Semla represents Shrove Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is a movable holiday celebrated on New Moon Tuesday seven weeks before Easter and the day before Ash Wednesday. Shrove Tuesday ended the winter fun time, and Shrove Tuesday began a great fast lasting until Easter.
During great fasts, amusements and hearty food are forbidden, so Shrove Tuesday was used to properly feast and eat before fasting. Traditional Estonian Shrove Tuesday food is pea or bean soup and pig’s feet, and more recently Shrove Tuesday Semla buns with whipped cream. Estonian Shrove Tuesday tradition includes sledding, and a long sled slide predicts good flax growth for the following summer.
Estonian Shrove Tuesday customs include eating pork and especially pig’s feet, the pig’s toe bone (Vastlavurr) is made the next day after Shrove Tuesday. Vastlavurr is a traditional Shrove Tuesday dish. It is made by making a hole in a pig’s toe bone and putting a string through the hole, then when you pull the string it makes kind of musical sounds. In addition to making Vastlavurr, Easter traditions also include sledding and eating all kinds of Shrove Tuesday foods.
Cream cheese Kringle (Toorjuustu kringel)
Holiday description: Kringle represents Easter. Popularly known as Egg holiday, Spring- or Swing holiday or Easter, is the most important among the moving spring holidays in the church calendar.
The most common practice related to Easter in European countries and also in Estonia is coloring, giving and eating eggs. There has been a lot of open-air partying and moving around on this day for centuries. In the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, we have had young men go from village to village to collect eggs, as well as godchildren to receive them from their godparents. The change took place after coming of age, previously also after going to camp, because from then on, godchildren had to give eggs to their godparents instead.
During Easter there were small magical practices that could be used to ensure success and health. Most of the time during Easter, the focus is on personal success: you had to get up early, so that – as it is figuratively said – the old devil could not pull the fleece over your eyes. Washing the eyes before sunrise ensured health and vitality. At the beginning of the 20th century, silver was scraped into the eyewash water or water from willows was used for washing. We quickly had to grab bird shavings from outside and bring them into the room, in order to find many bird nests, wallets, worms, etc. in the summer.
In addition to boiled eggs, the holiday table includes other foods that are available in early spring: sweet curd with egg (church name pasha), curd pies, bread, egg butter, roast veal and -salt, pork. Other times, meat was enough only for the holidays, later they switched to lighter food. Apart from the Russian Orthodox, a rich meal on Easter is probably a late phenomenon.
Mulgikorp represents Midsummer Day. Jaanipäev or leedopäev (‘Jaan’s Day’) is the longest celebrated public holiday and one of the most important summer holidays in the Estonian folk calendar. It corresponds to the English Midsummer Day. On jaaniõhtu (the night of Jaani saturday, which is the night before jaanipäev) Estonians will gather with their families or at larger events to celebrate this important day with singing and dancing, drinking and eating, and lighting the bonfires, as has been the tradition for centuries. Jaanipäev is arguably the most important holiday, more important than Christmas in the yearly calendar for Estonians. As the Estonian National Museum describes it, “this is a time when nature is full of power and thousands of bonfires are set on fire throughout the country to celebrate the beginning of summer and ensure good luck”. It is said that the traditions of jaanipäev started with the fall of the Kaali meteorite around 4,000 years ago. Lighting of bonfires is to re-enact the falling of the meteorite.
During Jaanipäev, swinging on a village swing is a popular activity. On Midsummer’s eve, Estonians all around the country will gather with their families, or at larger gatherings to celebrate this important day with singing and dancing and lighting the bonfires. Some of the rituals of jaanipäev have very strong folkloric roots. There is also an important place for spells and fire. The best-known ritual is the lighting of the bonfire and then jumping over it. This is seen as a way of guaranteeing prosperity and avoiding bad luck. Likewise, to not light the fire is to invite the destruction of your house by fire. The fire also frightened away mischievous spirits who avoided it at all costs, thus ensuring a good harvest. So, the bigger the fire, the further the mischievous spirits stayed away.
Midsummer’s eve is important for lovers. Among Estonian folk tales and literature there is the tale of two lovers, Koit (dawn) and Hämarik (dusk). These two lovers see each other only once a year and exchange the briefest of kisses on the shortest night of the year. Earth-bound lovers go into the forest looking for the flower of the fern which is said to bloom only on that night. Also on this night, single people can follow a detailed set of instructions involving different flowers to see whom they are going to marry.
Midsummer’s Day is also considered a herd’s and shepherd’s holiday. Milk was freely available, because the beginning of summer was the best milking time for cows. As a result, the entire Estonian Midsummer menu is characterized by the use of a lot of dairy foods. Better meals were prepared for Midsummer than on normal days. One of the special pastries for this holiday is Mulgikorp.
While originally the mulgi basket was filled with porridges, especially semolina porridge, more recently either sweet or salty curd with cumin is used for filling. Making korp is easy even for those who find it a little difficult to make yeast dough. Korpe can also be made from ready-made buns by cutting them in half and spreading the filling on them. Mulgi korpe is their pleasure and good to serve due to the shape that fits well in the hand.