Celebrating Halloween and Kekri: The ancient Finnish harvest tradition

Updated: Oct 6

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 today

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