The Tallinn Christmas Market, this year catering mainly for locals, will run until 2 January 2022.
Tallinn’s modern-day Christmas market that has been running since 1991 is quieter than usual this year, as due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Estonian capital is visited by less tourists.
In 2018, a widely read travel magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, declared the Christmas market in Tallinn as one of the most charming in Europe and the market was heaving. It’s all different in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic still heavily restricts the number of tourists visiting the Estonian capital, so the market’s revenue is saved mainly by locals this Christmas.
But the market still looks the same, regardless. Perhaps just the Christmas tree – the centrepiece of the market – looks a slightly less colourful and more minimalistic this time around. A beautiful spruce from the country’s Kuusalu municipality, it’s decorated with 300 golden balls of different sizes.
The organisers of the market like to claim that the very first public Christmas tree in Europe was erected in Tallinn, back in 1441 – but Latvians, Estonia’s southern neighbours, dispute that, claiming the tradition was started in Riga instead (the historians have not agreed on either version, by the way).
According to the Estonian version, the first public Christmas tree ever was put on display in Tallinn 580 years ago by the Brotherhood of the Black Heads guild, an association of local unmarried merchants, ship owners and foreigners that was active in the region at the time. The tree was the focal point of a ritual and involved unmarried merchants singing and dancing with local girls around a tree, which then was burned.
Whatever the story, on these days, people simply prefer to sip mulled wine around the tree and admire the city’s Old Town Square, where the market is located. And there is a plentiful supply of mulled wine here – from the classic flavour to the sea buckthorn, cranberry, raspberry-blackcurrant, apple-ginger, plum, blueberry and cherry-flavoured; both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
As usual, there are food stalls where you can mix and match the traditional Estonian Christmas staples, such as roast pork and sauerkraut, and various sausages, from blood sausages to fine grilled lamb sausages. For sweet tooth, you can try the traditional gingerbreads or Christmas-themed eclairs. For the first time, there is also a waffle kiosk.
Children can have fun on the three carousels and if that’s not enough, try to get a glimpse of the market’s Santa, who might be keeping warm in the specially built hut. There is even a mailbox attached to the hut, where “Santa is waiting for letters, both with gift requests and just good wishes”, according to the market’s organisers.
The Christmas market’s stalls will also sell traditional Estonian and Russian handicraft as well as new design items by local designers.
The Tallinn Christmas Market is open every day from 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM, although hot drinks are served until a few hours later.
Cover: The Tallinn Christmas Market in 2021. Photo by Kaupo Kalda.