Cookies left for Santa or meatballs for a deceased grandfather during hingede/aeg, the time of souls – it all depends on where you’re from. Photo: Riina Kindlam
Estonians visit and light candles on the graves of loved ones on 2. november, hingede/päev (All Souls Day), as do many Europeans of various faiths. However, they don’t take food to graveyards, as do people in Mexico for Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead; instead a table is set at home for the visiting souls of esi/vanemad (ancestors).
For Estonians, hingede/aeg, the period of souls, is long – all of November (also known as koolja/kuu, month of the dead and hinge/kuu, soul month) and even up to jõulud (Christmas). And as Ahto Kaasik, who studies folk traditions and sacred places has said – “Souls don’t follow a calendar, they come when the weather is quiet, often foggy and mild”.
During this extended period, families would set a table for the deceased in the house or the saun every nelja/päev (Thursday) during the fall. Thursdays were considered lucky: good for sowing, making offerings, religious ceremonies, predictions and even witchcraft.
On this particular night, the first Sunday in November, a little girl decided it was the right time to light a candle in the window and invite her Papa home. We were having liha/pallid (meatballs), so some were left out for him all night as well.