The Call

The Call

Sunday, June 25, 2017


Just what is Jaanipäev?  Every year, around the longest day of the year, in June, Estonians will celebrate Jaanipäev.  This word is translated as Jaan's Day or St. John's Day.  The practice has been around for many centuries.  The celebration includes gathering with friends and family to enjoy food and drink, singing songs of the homeland, maybe some folk dancing and of course, a bonfire.  Some sources say that the bonfires of Jaanipäev were to commemorate the Kaali meteorite some 4,000 years ago.  Over the years, this tradition has merged with Victory Day (June 23rd), which celebrated the defeat of German forces in the War of Independence in 1919.  This year, we organized for the YSA group, a Jaanipäev party at the farm house of a  dear friend here in Tallinn.  This is a big deal here.  It's bigger than Christmas.  Most all the stores are closed and there are very few people downtown.  During the buildup to Jaanipäev, the stores will advertise special meat for the festivities.  It is called šašlõkk (pronounced shashlek).  One store had 60 varieties.  Meat lovers and grillers would be in heaven.  We had 13 young folks show for the party and we all had a blast.  Elder Allred was the designated šašlõkk griller and Sister Allred was the determined hostess to make everything real nice.  After our meal, we went to the lower 40 and started the bonfire and, according to tradition, you must walk 3 times around the fire and then 3 times backwards around it to ward off bad luck for the year.  To not light a bonfire is to invite destruction of your house by fire.  Afterwards, we sang Estonian folk songs while our good friend accompanied us on the kannel, a stringed instrument.  After a few rounds of singing, we engaged in the folk dancing which was very entertaining.  Then came the jumping over the bonfire, a tradition that must be completed to ensure prosperity and good luck.  Yes, yours truly, also jumped over it (we all could use some of that good luck, right?).  This day is also important for lovers.  In Estonian literature, there is a tale of two lovers, Koit (dawn) and Hämarik (dusk), who could only see each other only on the shortest night of the year when dusk and dawn occur at nearly the same time and could only exchange the briefest of kisses.  It is customary for Estonians to seek out certain forest flowers (9 different kinds) and place them under their pillows hoping to dream of who they will marry some day.  After all of the traditions were observed, we engaged in s'more making with 4 different flavors of chocolate (it's a big deal here, the chocolate).  A fun time was had by all and as we headed home at 10:00 PM,  the sun was still in the sky, trying to linger a little more, shedding its light on a happy day.

Farm house with green everywhere

The line forms quickly for the šašlõkk

Many people brought side dishes

My helper from Spain

My helper from heaven

Lighting the fire

And the singing begins

Privy with moose antler

S'more fixin's

Flowers of the forest

I hope she dreams of me

A fine group with the fire

Close up.  Notice the traditional dress

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Break the Fast

This is a widely used activity in YSA units all over the world.  It's a great time to gather our single adults and provide a home cooked meal in a safe and inviting environment.  This summer, we have seven BYU interns living here in Tallinn, so our turnout has been fabulous.  From month to month, over the past year, we never know how many will come until we sit down to eat, and sometimes, we still don't know as others may come late.  So we always make extra.  It's really satisfying to see them interact and become more acquainted over a meal they didn't have to cook on a hot plate or a microwave.  Sister Allred always makes the best dinners.  Occasionally, we will have guest chefs come and prepare the meal.  This month we enjoyed authentic Estonian cuisine made by one of our YSA sisters.  It was a hit with everyone.

Enjoying our Estonian meal

The young Elders came too with an investigator

A Night at the Opera

Well, not exactly.  Some of our branch members are in a choir that was performing during the Old Town celebration week.  We thought this would be a fun activity for the YSA group and so we made a plan to attend (free admission helps).  It turns out that there were two choirs performing.  These choirs are sponsored by various government agencies.  The choir our friends are in is sponsored by the Politsei (police) and the other by the Tax commission.  The Politsei choir had very nice uniforms and sang a variety of songs from classical composers to more modern.  The Tax choir sang a number of movie theme songs from familiar Hollywood films.  See if you can guess the tunes.  At the end, both choirs sang together a song (Smile) written by Charlie Chaplin and used in his movie "Modern Times".  The lyrics and title were later added by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons.

Another Visit to the Open Air Museum

The summertime activities have started and so we thought we would catch some of them at the museum ( Click here to refer back to our first visit in September, 2016).  We hoped to attend a song fest of choirs representing various regions in Estonia where they would sing to each other (outside, of course) their favorite folk songs.  I read the time wrong and we arrived just after it ended.  So we wandered around the place and actually caught a song here and there.  We bought a yearly family pass as we intend to come back several times this summer.

Who knew a kiik (swing) could be so fun

Things heard while on our path

These people love to sing

Sunday, June 4, 2017

District Conference
The District Conference is always a great time to meet up with friends and missionaries that live in other cities.  This conference was really great as we had the Europe East Area President, President James Martino and his wife as well as our mission president and his wife.  We also had a special visitor from Salt Lake.  Sister Sharon Eubank, 1st C in the Relief Society General Presidency was on her first tour in that capacity.  She was delightful and knows her stuff.  This visit was dear for her as she once served a mission to Finland (right across the Baltic from us).  Our Estonian daughter, Silva, was asked to translate for her.  She was nervous, but she did great.  We got to visit with her right after.  Sister Allred gave her one of the Estonian flag hotpads that she makes for all the missionaries that serve in Estonia.  Look close, she is holding it in the picture.

Translating is hard work in Estonian

Sis. Eubank speaking at the adult session.

Sister Allred, Sister Eubank and Elder Allred

A Walk Along the Shore

The other day, we went for a walk along the beach in Pirita.  The sun was out but the wind was really trying hard to blow it away.  It was so soothing and relaxing (if you can mentally cancel out the wind in your mind).  The Baltic Sea is special.  It is warmer (relatively speaking) because it is like an inland sea.  Storms on the water are rare.  With its ebb and flow, it harmonizes with the culture and the land, always bringing new life and color that is always on display.

A view of the Tallinn skyline through the trees

Sea enchantment and peaceful thoughts

A sailboat riding away from the shimmering sun

It's Old Town Days in Tallinn

It's tourist season here now with 18+ hour days, the streets are starting to fill up with tourists from all over.  In Old Town, the craft vendors are out in force as well as many other attractions.  One of the them is a medieval sparring contest made up of people who enjoy reenactment battles from the old days.  Here is a short video I captured.