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Marriage proposals and divorce wishes at Tallinn Christmas market

Tallinn's Old Town Christmas market 2023 in Rakeoja plats.
Tallinn's Old Town Christmas market 2023 in Rakeoja plats. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Markets have always been important places for people to interact, socialize and exchange news. At Tallinn's annual Christmas market, numerous marriage proposals have been made over the years, while Jõuluvana (Estonian Santa Claus) has even been asked for help with a divorce.

Tallinn Christmas market is not just a nice spot to gather and drink mulled wine. It is also a place where more personal life events can happen, including for example, marriage proposals.

"We don't really know about all the marriage proposals, because a lot of them happen, in front of the tree, in private," said Marjen Võsujalg, head of partnerships at Tallinn Christmas Market.

"But indeed, there was a small romantic moment on Saturday last week when a proposal was made," she added.

"It was some nice local people. The young man had already been here beforehand, we made an agreement and also agreed with Jõuluvana (Estonian Santa Claus) about his vision for [the proposal]," explained Maive Nahksepp, manager of Tallinn Christmas market.

"They had agreed to just come to see Jõuluvana. They came like this and read me a poem. I thanked them with some candy and then after that, the man got down on one knee and took out a box with the rings inside. He gave one ring to the girl, put it on her finger and then put the other one on his own. He asked for her hand and her heart. And I took the flowers, I had them hidden here. I took the flowers and gave them to the girl," said Jõuluvana.

"Love was in the air. The young people were really joyful and happy when it happened. And even the people who were waiting in the line to see Jõuluvana, they got it straight away, so they were given a little applause, everyone was really excited. Everybody was happy," said Nahksepp.

A few years ago, however, another young man who had moved to Estonia from abroad set up an even more elaborate proposal at the Christmas market.

Jõuluvana. Source: AS Tallinna Linnatransport

"The girl was a dancer in a dance studio. That evening none of her girlfriends would take her there, they couldn't get together, and so the girl's father took her to the Christmas market instead. All her relatives were carefully hidden in different corners of the Christmas market and then in a kind of flash mob they all started arriving quietly. It was very well planned," said Võsujalg.

However, on this occasion, the young man's grand gesture was not met with the "yes" that he had been hoping to hear.

"The young woman wasn't prepared for the fact that instead of going to see Jõuluvana to read a poem and get some candy, she was given an engagement ring. She was probably scared," said Võsujalg.

In addition to getting involved in actual marriage proposals, visitors often make a secret wish to Jõuluvana for their sweethearts to pop the question.

"Before, when the borders were open, there were really a lot. Young girls came one after the other, especially from Russia. They have this custom whereby Jõuluvana has to help them."

On one occasion, Jõuluvana was even asked by a visitor from Russia to help end a marriage -  by granting her wish for a divorce.

"She said that her husband would not agree to a divorce – help! As usual, I put my hand on her shoulder and said in Russian that her wish will be granted. And that was that. The next year she came back and thanked me," said Jõuluvana.

The Christmas market is not only somewhere that people propose marriage or ask for a divorce. It can also be a place where love is born, especially for those working there throughout the festive season.

"The Christmas market is known to be a very long event, lasting around 40 – 45 days. And if you're drinking coffee here with your neighbor in the morning for 45 days, you might want to do the same after the Christmas market [is over]. And so that's what has happened. Five or six couples met for the first time here. [Now] they are trading [together] in one house," said Nahksepp.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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