FROM KEKRI TO CHRISTMAS

 

In an agricultural society, the end of the year came naturally at the end of the harvest. The New Year celebration in the autumn was known as kekri (or köyri, keyri). Originally, the jubilation was not settled on a particular day. It depended on the yearly weather conditions and the progress of work, and it could vary from late summer to late autumn.

Kekri was the equivalent of yuletide and the New Year. Most of our Christmas and New Year traditions derive from the celebration of Kekri. As Christmas grew more important, the secular Kekri became less popular. A typical Kekri involved massive feasting and drinking. People remembered their dead by offering them food. One popular Kekri tradition was to dress up as a female kekritär or as a kekri buck with horns, knock on people’s doors and ask for food and drink. The connection of Kekri and All Saints’ Day was established in the 19th century. Since 1955, Finland has celebrated All Saints’ Day on the first Saturday in November.

The Jyväskylä University Museum compiled the exhibition Kekristä jouluun, which has been viewable twice at the University Library. The exhibition and the internet pages are based on works and photographs by Ahti Rytkönen. Ahti Rytkönen was a lecturer in Finnish language at the Jyväskylä College of Education, a keen collector of linguistic and ethnological data, and a skilled photographer. His collection of photographs is kept in the Keski-Suomen muistiarkisto (“The Memory Archives of Central Finland”).

 

Sources (in Finnish):

Juhannus ajallaan. Juhlia vapusta kekriin. Toim. Juha Nirkko. Jyväskylä 2004.

Suuri perinnekirja. Toim. Satu Aalto. Hämeenlinna 2005.

Vilkuna, Kustaa: Vuotuinen ajantieto. Keuruu 2002.

 
Santa’s “cousin”, the “Buck” roaming through Kekri, was the terror of children. Vieremä.
 

The exhibition is available by agreement for museums and libraries etc. Further information: chief curator Pirjo Vuorinen, phone (014) 260 3800, email: pirjo.vuorinen(at)jyu.fi