Folk school wants Estonian folk customs taught in schools too

Children in Estonia dressed up as traditional Marts on Martinmas Eve. November 9, 2022.
Children in Estonia dressed up as traditional Marts on Martinmas Eve. November 9, 2022. Source: Mari-Liis Pintson

Thursday, November 10 marked Martinmas — or St. Martin's Day — according to the Estonian folk calendar. Throughout the week, the nonprofit Estonian Folk Tradition School has traveled around the country teaching children and adults alike old Estonian Martinmas customs. The folk school would like to see a subject on folk tradition added to school curricula.

While the majority of mardid, or "Marts," roamed from one house to another on Wednesday night already — in a custom known as mardijooksmine, or "running Mart," loosely comparable to the North American Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating — in some parts of the country, people used to dress up as Marts and visit homes for two weeks straight starting Martinmas Eve.

Estonian Folk Tradition School executive director Terje Puistaja has visited kindergartens, schools and community centers across the country to teach people old Martinmas customs.

"It's absolutely spectacular how our children actually want to run Mart and get dressed up," Puistaja said. The only problem, she added, is that many of them don't know all of the customs and traditions involved.

Estonian scouts and guides at a Martinmas (mardipäev) masquerade in Kumla. Source: Estonian National Museum (ERM) archives

"Children actually pay very close attention to what we, the adults, do in front of them," she pointed out. "If we're saying that kids are celebrating Halloween, then we must first look in the mirror ourselves, not at anyone else."

Puistaja said that old Estonian customs should be taught more in schools as well.

She mentioned she had reached an agreement with a school in Southern Estonia that perhaps folk customs should be taught in schools as well.

"That children from first grade through the end of high school would know our customs, our stories — and could sing even just one runosong," Puistaja emphasized.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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