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Pentecost 2018 and 2019

Pentecost Sunday and Monday are celebrated in many churches across Estonia every year. Sometimes, the terms “Whit Sunday” and “Whit Monday” are used to refer to these holidays because of the olden time practice of wearing white during baptisms that were frequently held this time of year.

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Pentecost technically occurs on Monday, but the Sunday before is often a time of special church services. The date of Pentecost moves with that of Easter, which if follows by 50 days. Note that the 50 days are counted “inclusively,” meaning you count the first and last days, so that it is actually seven weeks or 49 days by “usual counting methods.”

Pentecost is also the official end of the Ecclesiastical Easter Season. It normally lands on the calendar anywhere from mid-May to early June. Russian Orthodox churches in Estonia may observe Pentecost a week or so later than Catholic and Lutheran churches since the former follow the Julian Calendar and the latter the Gregorian Calendar.

In many Pentecost services, priests will dress in red robes to symbolise the fire that appeared over the heads of the Apostles when the Holy Spirit came upon them on Pentecost in ancient Jerusalem. Sermons will often be on topics concerning the importance of the church and its ministry, the Holy Spirit and His activities, or the church expanding into various language and culture groups. Symbols of the Spirit include flames, doves, and the breath of God.

In Estonia, many people dye and decorate ornate eggs for Pentecost, the same way that they do for Easter. The traditional reason is that hens did not lay eggs in Estonia until around this time of year, but the love of Estonians for extremely intricate and colourful eggshell designs has much to do with it as well.

Many Estonians who are not very religious yet enjoy the four-day Pentecost Weekend as a time to relax, spend time with family and friends, and be outside in the spring weather. They may also use the time to go on short mini-vacations.

Tourists visiting Estonia for Pentecost will find that many museums and certain other attractions are closed for at least part of the weekend, but there are still many things to do, including the following:

  • See the religious buildings of Tallinn, the capital city. For example, you may want to see the ruins of Saint Bridget’s Convent, which dates from the 1400’s, the tower on Saint Olaf’s Church, which is the tallest building in Tallinn that dates form Medieval times, and the tower on Saint Mary the Virgin Cathedral, the oldest church in the city.
  • Get out and enjoy nature in the fresh spring weather, which is much appreciated in Estonia, given the long, harsh winters that occur there. Two great places to visit this time of year are the Tallinn Botanic Gardens and the Tallinn Zoo.
  • Get a taste of some authentic Estonian cuisine, especially seasonal spring foods such as fresh berries and vegetables. Definitely try some Estonian-style rhubarb pie and some “kringle,” a sweet bread infused with a spice called “cardamom.” Other dishes to look for at local restaurants include: sausages, potato salad, soups with sour cream or yogurt blended in, traditional black rye bread, fresh fish in seaside and lakefront towns, numerous pork dishes, and “rosolje,” a dish containing beets, herring fish, and potatoes.

Pentecost does not have a large number of special events in Estonia outside the doors of the churches, but it is a great time to enjoy Estonia’s spring weather and to explore the old churches and religious buildings of the country.