Kekri Celebration

Posted On November 1, 2010

Filed under ancestors, holidays

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Happy new year everyone! At least, as it goes by the old cycle of the year. I spend all weekend with Taivaannaula at their kekri celebration. This celebration did not have as many rituals as at Hela; the main point was to have a good time and celebrate the dead. Most of us brought pictures of our ancestors to put on the altar that we set up. The cabin that we stayed in was a blast from the past(no electricity), which I think helped get us into the mood to think of how our ancestors lived. It was a large communal space with a feast table in the middle, surrounded by about eight bunk beds. There was a smaller bedroom with four bunk beds too, which I was glad to have because it helped me sleep better. What surprised me was that the heating in the cabin was warmer than the one in my apartment! There were two large stoves that remained warm even after the fire went out inside.

The first ritual on Friday night was in the sauna, to wish everyone good health and get us into a different state of mind for the weekend. The main activity for the rest of the night was going in and out of the sauna. Saturday morning and early afternoon was spent preparing the food to eat in the early evening. Before the food was ready, we heard banging on the outside of the house and strange noises. They were the kekripukki! Four of them came in the house, dressed in old, silly clothing, and got up on the table, demanding alcohol from the host of the event. Then they ran around the house, messing with people and lifting up women’s skirts, and then they were gone just as soon as they arrived. Now let me rewind a bit and tell you why this went on. Back in the old times, the laborers who never were able to get a break, finally could at kekri. They would don silly clothing, be loud, and get drunk, as it was finally their time to let loose. An amusing time indeed. One thing about the host of kekri. Apparently he is supposed to get drunk to the point where he is swaying, because it signifies that the grain will sway in the wind in the coming year. If the host falls down, however, that means that the grain will do the same, and thus, the harvest will be unsuccessful. Our host was definitely swaying by the end of Saturday night, but to my knowledge, he did not fall down.

After this episode, all of the food was brought out, and what a feast it was! It was almost all traditional Finnish food, particularly those including vegetables of the harvest. There were eggs, sausage, chicken, vegetable and lamb pies, different kinds of bread, rutabaga, carrot, and potato casserole, cheeses, and jam. For drink there was sima and sahti(gross), and the dessert was fudge, pudding, some kind of pastry, and truffles. What a meal! The uneaten food was left on the table after we were finished, because all food is supposed to be consumed by the end of kekri. After dinner, we gathered outside around a firepit. We held hands and walked around the pit in a circle, singing the birth words for fire, while one guy made a fire by traditional means. The sauna was opened up once more, and we spent another night being merry. Before we went to bed, we told our fortunes by melting these tin horseshoes in the fire. After it’s melted, you quickly dump it into a bucket of water, and the kind of shape it makes signifies certain meanings. We particularly looked if it was shaped like a particular animal, and oddly enough, if the shape is dull, then it means you’ll have money. Mine was shiny and looked like an alien. Nobody really knew where this tradition came from, but people still do it nowadays at the regular new year.

On Sunday we did a good clean-up of the cabin, and before we left, the women and men split up into circles. The ritual leader walked into the middle of each and wished us a good new year and wellness. It was a great celebration before the dark, cold winter comes. I learned a lot about different traditions that I never participated in or heard of before. Most of the people outside of Taivaannaula that I have talked with do not even know what kekri is anymore. It’s a shame because it’s a really fun holiday. The Halloween traditions from America keep becoming more popular as each year passes, and I don’t understand why people feel the need to borrow that holiday when there’s a perfectly good tradition here.


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