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Food Culture: Special Occasion Foods

Seasonal Foods

Because of the strong variation in weather over the course of the year, different foods are eaten in different seasons. In the spring, rhubarb, dock, and radishes are among the first plants to ripen, and fresh goat cheese is readily available. Fresh tomatoes and cucumbers are summer favorites, as are wild berries like strawberries, raspberries, bilberries, lingonberries, and cranberries. Barbeques and picnics are popular summer pastimes that allow Estonians to enjoy time in the sun. In the winter, preserved foods and dishes made from root vegetables like potatoes become more common, along with roasts, casseroles, and other slow-cooked hot dishes.

Christmas

The winter holiday of Christmas is celebrated with special preparations and traditional foods. Christmas dinner, usually featuring roast pork or goose, also often includes hapukapsus (sauerkraut), sült (head cheese), and oven-roasted potatoes and apples. Savory blood sausage made with grain stuffed in intestinal casings is another Estonian Christmas specialty. Although fresh produce is not readily available at this time of year, mandarin oranges are a special treat, along with gingerbread cookies.

Other Special Occasions

Weddings and birthdays are secular occasions that are observed with feasting and special foods. Weddings can include several days' worth of large meals for family and friends, and birthdays are traditionally celebrated with birthday cakes and large parties. Served at weddings, funerals, birthdays, and even New Year's Eve celebrations, sprat sandwiches are popular, as fresh sprat are plentiful in the Baltic Sea. The fish sandwich, often made with egg and dark bread, is a national dish, and Estonia holds the world record for the longest sprat sandwich ever documented.

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