Yay for Christmas!
Today, I have been to the Christmas Market (Jõuluturg, for those interested in adding to their knowledge of eesti keelt), where I wandered around quite happily for a long time, looking at all the twinkly lights and market people in knitted red cape things. It is all very lovely in the Town Hall Square, with dozens of little cabins full of handicrafts, tables stocked with Silly Hats and giant woolly socks, and plentiful supplies of hot pea soup, roast chestnuts, and “Christmas tea”, which I’m not sure about – I have a sneaking suspicion that it might just be ordinary tea in a red plastic cup, but I appreciate the attempt to make it festive nonetheless.
There are sheltered stands dotted around the marketplace, each with a bar-like table underneath, so that people can have somewhere to stand around and talk to their friends as they eat their warm market food and drink their glögi – which, as far as I can tell, is the Estonian equivalent of mulled wine. I tried some for the purposes of research, and drank it whilst standing at one of the wooden shelters next to an elderly man who was playing some sort of harmonica purely for his own entertainment. We did not speak to each other, for that is not the done thing in Estonia. Small talk is considered to be a rather pointless endeavour, and so people only speak if they know each other and/or have something important to say. If you smiled at a stranger as you passed in the street, they’d think your head was cut. It is fantastic. You don’t have to worry about getting trapped in a mundane chat about the weather when you just want to stand at a wooden shelter, drinking your glögi and watching Silly Hatted people buying handmade wooden trolls as you listen to a drunk man play a weird – but strangely melodic – mouth organish instrument. But I digress. As it turns out, glögi is pretty damn good. Much stronger than I remember mulled wine being, and without bits of stewed fruit floating around in it, which is always going to be a plus as far as I’m concerned. It warmed the cockles of my heart, anyway. And made me the tiniest bit giddy. Christmas spirits and all that.
And also, Santa is in Tallinn! The real Santa, I mean – not the skinny wannabe from the other day. Security in Estonia is decidedly lax, I’ve noticed, and as a result there were no barriers or the like to keep Santa safe from the public. No, he was simply sitting at a table in his cabin, possibly composing his Naughty and Nice lists, and cheerfully greeting anyone who wanted to put their head round the door and say hello. Look! I said to Riho in a thrilled whisper, stopping suddenly and clutching his arm in my excitement, He’s here!! It was somewhere around this point that Riho decided he’d had as much Christmas as he could stomach for one day and left me to it, whereupon I hovered around Santa’s cabin like an overgrown six-year-old, watching in delight as a small boy walked in nervously and received a big hug from the man himself. I eavesdropped on the conversation, but I couldn’t understand much of it as they were speaking Estonian. I think it’s amazing that Santa must have learned so many languages – and becoming fluent in eesti keelt is particularly admirable, if you ask me. Santa rules.
It is not. Tallinn Old Town at Christmas time is my new Very Favourite Thing.