Estonia Prepares to Celebrate Military Victory, Pagan Roots

Photo: Postimees/Scanpix
6/21/2013 1:08 PM
Category: Society

Flags will be hoisted and bonfires lit across the nation this weekend as Estonia marks two key holidays: Victory Day on June 23 and Midsummer on June 24.

The first celebrates the victory of the Estonian Army over the German Landeswehr on June 23, 1919 in what was a crucial moment in the nation's war for independence.

The annual Victory Day parade organized by the home guard moves to Haapsalu this year, the first time the seaside resort town is hosting the event since 2000.

Over 1,000 people will take part in the parade in the town of 10,000 slightly more than an hour's drive from Tallinn. The traditional review of the parade by the commander in chief of the Defense Forces and president will take place in front of the iconic Haapsalu railway station, the longest covered railway platform in Europe.

The volunteers of the year from the two organizations, the Defense League and the Women's Voluntary Defense Organization, in each defense district will carry the ceremonial flame to the counties.

The crew of the Estonia Navy's ship Ristna - home guard members from the Tallinn naval division, will also be in full regalia.

Estonian Air Force and NATO planes will fly overhead if the weather is good.

The measured solemnity of Victory Day tributes will, as usual, quickly melt into a nationwide spree later in the day as the Midsummer's Night parties rev up.

Midsummer (Jaanipäev in Estonian) is the time people come together to light bonfires on the village green, a tradition dating back to pre-Christian times. Most Estonians observe it by heading to the countryside to grill meat and crack open cold cans of beer.

City dwellers and tourists in the capital will not be completely left out of the fiery fun, however, as the Open Air Museum will be holding its annual Midsummer's Eve party, complete with free bus transfers from the city center.

Those in favor of more modern entertainment can also attend the free Kesklinna Jaanipäev rock concert at Tallinn's Kalev Stadium. The event will feature Bombillaz, Trollid, Metsatöll and Svataja Vatra.

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