Celebrating Halloween and Kekri: The ancient Finnish harvest tradition
Updated: Oct 6, 2021
We know Halloween is celebrated nowadays in many countries around the world, although it may not be the original tradition. However, there are many similarities between Halloween and various traditional festivities for the commemoration of the dead in different countries and cultures, including Finland. Now let's talk about some of the original Finnish customs related to modern Halloween and how they are celebrated currently in Finland.
Kekri, the old Finnish agriculture harvest festival
Kekri, also known as Keyri, Köyri, Köyry, and Kööri, comes from the word kekra or kekraj, which means cycle. It is an old Finnish harvest festival that was celebrated annually in autumn. The celebration did not originally have an exact calendar date since it depended on the farming activities. Later in the early 1800s, the date was introduced and determined at the beginning of November which is the All Saints' Day, also known as All Hallows' Day; a Christian festival. In some mythological studies, the phrase Kekri is described as a celebration of the end of the farming season.
In the Kekri feasts, people dressed in formal clothes and visited family and friends. The festivity included bonfires, magic and curse, belief and myths, and each family invited their dead to Kekri. These long traditions were strong in Finland when it was mainly the farming society, and these customs started to vanish in modern industrialization times.
Kekri has still kept its position in Finland as an ancient tradition for the memorial of the dead.
Nowadays, the Kekri is performed mostly in the city of Kajaani, and as a part of the feast, Kekri-goat (Kekripukki) is built and then burned, accompanied by other programs such as dance and music, street market, etc.
The other place where Kekri is also celebrated is the island of Suomenlinna in the capital area of Helsinki. Different events are organized there every year with respect for Kekri. See more detailed information at Kekri Festival.
Halloween in Finland
Kekri has been known first and until now, certain Kekri ceremonies are held in some parts of Finland. But during the most recent years, Halloween is also being celebrated during the autumn festivals. At the same time, Finns still want to keep their respect for the Kekri-Tradition or for the All Saints' Day (Pyhäinpäivä) by going to the cemetery and lighting candles on the first Saturday after the 30th of October.
For Finns, Halloween is seen as a separate party event for most young people, a fun occasion to spend time with friends and eat lots of cakes and candies. Ghost stories, dark nights, and scary faces or masks all give an attractive atmosphere to these favorite parties of children and young, no matter which country you're from.