2020 has been a difficult one for the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK), its leader Archbishop Urmas Viilma told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Christmas eve, with the coronavirus pandemic meaning several planned events have had to be canceled. The pandemic and its effects have also provided an opportunity for a year of introspection, however, the archbishop added.
In keeping churches working at 50 percent capacity, Estonia has done better than most other European countries, Viilma added, who also noted that church bells were rung Christmas eve, and will be again on Christmas day, in gratitude to front-line health-workers who have done so much to keep society functioning.
Viilma said: "In times like the coronavirus has taught us that the most important thing remain constant. We strive to maintain the most important relationships."
"One Christmas wish is being able to read that love in each others eyes – above the edge of a face-mask … not only in Estonia but worldwide," he went on.
Due to the 50 percent requirement in place in government coronavirus restrictions, larger Lutheran congregations in Estonia held multiple Christmas eve services, starting at noon.
Other restrictions include having to wear a face-mask in church as with any other indoor public gathering. The archbishop noted this could be uncomfortable, particularly when singing Christmas carols, but that its widespread use on public transport, in stores and in church, had transformed face-masks into somewhat of a symbol of love for one's neighbor.
Congregations have also worked hard to curb the spread of COVID-19 he said.
Overall, Christmas will be singularly quiet and simple this year, with the first night of Christmas, i.e. December 24, setting the tone here as the season continues to be marked within the close family circle.
From Monday, December 28, additional restrictions will apply in Harju County, including Tallinn, following rising coronavirus rates in the most populous region of the country.
This means entertainment venues will be fully closed from that date – a regime set to run to January 17 as things stand.
Editor: Andrew Whyte