Do you know what the phrase “Head Eesti Vabariigi Aastapäeva” means? Well, you should. It means “Happy Estonian Independence Day” and apparently it’s the best thing to say to an Estonian on the 24th of February. Seriously, it will make their day. Many people think that Estonians don’t show emotions, but if you go on the streets this day you will see a lot of smiles and happy faces.
I’m not going to lie, before coming to Estonia I knew little about this place and its history like most of the Erasmus students. But the more I stay here the more excited I get about everything. So “Vabariigi Aastapäev” was a good motive to ask my friend Google a few things (he knows everything). After a few hours of reading about the history of Estonia, I feel like I know a little bit more about this awesome country and its people, making me love it even more.
It was 24th of February, 1918 when the Republic of Estonia was officially declared as a free and independent country. About a decade later, Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union. Despite all the challenges and wars, the Estonian spirit and tradition managed to survive. The restoration of the Estonian independence in 1991 is probably one of the most memorable things for many. Since then, Estonia has made a huge progress to become the beautiful country it is today.
Every year on the same day, Estonia proudly celebrates its freedom and this year is the 99th anniversary (Damn, I came one year too early). It is a very special day for everyone in this country and they celebrate it with singing, fireworks, the military parade and the presidential speech. There you go, now you know a little bit more about the Estonian history.
This year I am glad that I had the chance to be a part of this wonderful day. So, me and my EBS crew woke up really early and went to the flag-hoisting ceremony at the Tower of Tall Hermann. We sang the Estonian national anthem (Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm), well not me but all the locals did, followed by speeches and then more singing. I must say the singing part was really good, even though I didn’t understand a thing. After that it was time for “The singing revolution” movie. Seriously people, go watch that movie now. You will learn a lot about Estonia and how singing is a huge part of their tradition. It is probably one of the best documentaries I have ever watched in my life.
The parade in Vabaduse Väljak was next. The blue, black and white flag was all over the place. We were walking in the cold for about 45 minutes in order to find the best spot, which we didn’t, but the excitement was big so no worries. Finally, we ended up in a hill. The parade had started but our biggest challenge was trying to stand still on ice. Fortunately, no accidents happened but most of us looked like puppets trying to find a good balance.
Overall, it was a great experience being in Tallinn on that day. You could see that there’s something huge going on, you could see it in peoples’ faces. Everyone was so happy and emotional. I just wanted to give a hug to everyone and say “Head Eesti Vabariigi Aastapäeva”, which I did and to my surprise people really liked it. Normally you have to respect others’ personal space in Estonia but this day is a special one, so hugs are welcomed by everyone.
Thank you Estonia, for being such an awesome country and offering all those beautiful experiences to me and many others. You will always be in my heart, you and your people!
Head Eesti Vabariigi Aastapäeva to everyone!
Author: Vasilis Krystallakis
Photo: Liisa Maide
Editor: Kärt Mättikas