Rites of the annual cycle
St. Catherine’s Day on November 25th is an ancient mumming ritual when young women and men wear masks and make rounds from farm to farm, singing ancient fertility songs.
Every village celebrates this day separately, but it is a communal event where all the participants plan and prepare for it, from food and costumes to musical entertainment. Two girls act as bride and groom and the message they distribute is happiness to everyone’s home. Everybody who wears a mask on this night is called Kadri (Catherine). The Kadris are given gifts and in return they wish the household good health and luck with its herd. Later the same night they gather for a play wedding to eat the donated food, to sing and to dance. The ritual once had a magical background, and has been transformed into a joyful social event. Many young people studying on the mainland come home especially for this occasion.
St. John’s Day on June 23rd is one of the most romantic rituals as it concerns the shortest night of the year in Estonia when the sun dips below the horizon for only a few hours.
On Kihnu and Manija islands, houses are decorated with young birch trees and the community gathers around huge bonfires of old boats, creating powerful symbols of eternal light. The islanders dance, sing and leap over the fire until sunrise.
Christmas, like many other traditions, is celebrated on the island in a somewhat different manner than in the rest of Estonia. If other Estonians use spruce for Christmas tree, the people of Kihnu bring a pine tree to their homes. A sauna is heated in the afternoon of the Christmas Eve and after that people go to the cemetery to light candles on the graves of their relatives. After the following church service they spend the evening with the family. In every household home made beer is offered to men who go on the first and second day of Christmas from house to house to greet the landlord and landlady.