24 February 2009

Estonian Trifecta 2009

Täna Eestis on: 1) Eesti iseseisvuspäev, 2) Vastlapäev, ning ka 3) Madisepäev.

In other words, today in Estonia it is 1) Independence Day, 2) Fat - Shrove (Br.) - Tuesday, and also 3) Matthew's Day.

Under the Ilves Administration, Estonia's official Independence Day military parade has moved around the country. Last year, it was on the coast of the Baltic Sea in Pärnu, the summertime capital of Estonia. This year it was on the Russian border in Narva, the country's third largest city (first pic, from the Postimees). Even though a reported 90-95% of the population in Narva speaks Russian, the city is really not quite a visa-free replica of its big bad neighbor to the east. To me, Chinatown in Chicago is more Chinese than Narva is Russian. That may be a good thing based on reports from Ivangorod.
America's beautiful people walk the red carpet at the Academy Awards. Estonia's beautiful people do the same at the President's Independence Day reception. After the parade in Narva, the festivities moved to the concert hall in Jõhvi for the President's (long and glum) Independence Day address, an (artistically uneven) Independence Day concert, and the President's (traditionally subdued) Independence Day reception (Presidendi vastuvõtt) and ball. It was broadcast live on Estonian public television.

Back to the beautiful people. Yes, Estonian women are naturally strong, but First Lady Evelin (b. 1968) looked a little too buff and a little too broad-shouldered in her whimsy-flimsy, crepe paper-like, sort of powder blue gown. Similarly, former First Lady Ingrid looked down right mean and wicked even though she was in her colorful folk costume with a cotton apron, a lace collar, and billowly sleeves.

Kalle Palling (b. 1985) is a relatively new member of the Estonian Parliament and apparently hasn't earned enough money to buy a nice suit for the red carpet. Yet I really liked his unnamed date's gold, softly crumpled, sleeveless dress with a plunging neckline that flashed a delicious peach border.

I thought Evelyn Sepp (b. 1972), another member of Parliament, and her date Peeter Rebane (b. 1973), chairman of the board of the entertainment company BDG, looked absolutely elegant. It is difficult to say which is more stunning: Sepp's pink gown or her height and boney, bronzed shoulders. (Rebane reportedly graduated from Harvard University cum laude.)

I'm not sure, though, if pink is the best color for a grand evening out at the end of February in slush-covered Estonia. So my favorite gown of the President's reception was the on/off the shoulder, harvest gold one that Keit Pentus (b. 1976) wore. I think the red shoes really lit up the dress's bejewelled top. Ms. Pentus is a member of Parliament, too, and was accompanied by fellow MP Rain Rosimannus.

The Postimees has photos of all of the beautiful Estonian people who attended the President's ball, from the prime minister to the chief of police to the 2008 woman of the year.

Although Vastlapäev and Iseseisvuspäev fell on the same day in 1998 and 2004, it won't happen again until after 2050. Thank goodness. You see, on Vastlapäev you have to eat a fresh vastlakukkel (pea soup, too, but that's not quite as fattening) but bakeries are closed on Iseseisvuspäev so this year you couldn't get a fresh vastlakukkel on Vastlapäev, which threw Estonians into a dither much like a December with no snow on the ground. The appeal of vastlakuklid (or, Shrove Tuesday buns) is their real whipped cream filling. Vastla in Estonian means "shrove", more or less, I guess, and "shrove" is the past tense of "to shrive", which means to hear the confession of and give absolution to someone, which is what they used to do in the UK on the day before Ash Wednesday. In the US, in the tradition of Carnival, we eat on the Tuesday (thus Fat Tuesday, not Shrove) before Ash Wednesday in anticipation of some serious fasting during Lent.

Every day in Estonia is somebody's name day. Come to find out, Madisepäev is no different than the other 364 days, at least according to my 10th and 11th graders. And at least one Madis.