Victory Day is a very important holiday in Estonia. This date signifies the day that Estonia was victorious over its independence war with Russia in 1919. This national holiday was celebrated each year until 1940 when Russian forces invaded Estonia again and took control of the country.
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Estonia regained its independence from Russia again in 1991. After this time, Victory Day was re-established as a national holiday.
23 June is also Midsummers Eve and the day before a second national holiday in Estonia, St. John’s Day. Estonians celebrate for two straight days, with these holidays being celebrated by everyone.
Victory Day is celebrated with parades throughout the country honouring the military and everyone who strived for Estonian freedom. The main parade featuring the different branches of the military is moved to different cities each year to ensure that all Estonians can celebrate Victory Day.
The day begins with the president lighting a torch in commemoration of the fallen heroes of the country. This torch is then used to light a torch for each county in the country. The torches are later used in the evening to light the bonfires used to celebrate Midsummers Eve and St. John’s Day.
After the torch has been lit, parades displaying the military, folk musicians and dancers from around the country take place in each city. There are celebrations throughout the country, and feasts are enjoyed all day. A brief rest period is taken, and the celebrations for Midsummers Eve begin.
Because Victory Day also falls on the summer solstice and is the day before St. John’s Day, many traditional and historical celebrations have been incorporated into the celebration. The lighting of bonfires is part of the Midsummers Eve celebration, but has grown to represent the flames of courage that all the people who fought for victory over Russia had shown.