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3 Autumnal Estonian-Style Activities

With its arrival on September 22nd, no one can escape the pleasures of autumn in Canada. The weather outside is mild, but not too cold. You can be comfortable outside with a light sweater. Your lungs are full of the crisp, oaky air. In October, you can jump into piles of leaves… that is, until you have to rake them all up. In the meantime, though, make the most of this perfectly moderate season with these three timely, Estonian-style autumnal activities.

Photo of the Jägala River by Erik Abner, used under a CC BY-SA 4 license

Picking Fresh Produce in the Countryside:

Mushroom picking is a famous Estonian autumnal activity, especially if you find a good plot of Chanterelles. While CBC has reported a surge of interest surrounding mushroom picking in Ontario, and mushroom harvesting also takes place in B.C., there are other kinds of produce you can safely pick with less expert knowledge!

Depending on the location, you may have to reserve a picking time in advance. However, going to pick raspberries at a pick-it-yourself farm like Brooks Farms in Mount Albert, or farm fresh apples at Downey's Apple Farm near Caledon, will cultivate the sensations of fall just like you would be able to in rural Estonia.

Observing the Changing of Leaf Colours:

This isn't unique to Estonia, as one would be able to see the changing colours in much of the northern hemisphere. Nevertheless, it's an event that ties Canada and Estonia together as northern nations. As trees prepare for winter, the chlorophyll that creates green pigment in leaves decomposes, exposing chemicals like xanthophyll and carotene, which unveil different colours.

Within Toronto, you could bear witness to rustic reds and overtures of orange and yellow within the city at High Park, or Rouge Park in Scarborough. The latter is accessible by TTC. There are numerous trails in the park area that you can try out once the leaves become more burnished and bright in October.

Speaking of colours, if you want to monitor the extent to which the leaves have changed colour and have fallen, in Ontario, you can visit the Ontario Parks website and see how things have progressed at key locations in the province that are closest to where you live. For those with a preference for a certain leaf colour, the site's map shows what the most frequently-occuring colour is in each place.

Hingedeaeg(the Time of Souls):

Autumn is a thoughtful time of year, too, of course. During Hingedeaeg, Estonian families may commune with the souls of their ancestors who come to visit them at home. According to Eesti Rahvakalendri Tähtpäevade Andmebaasi, which details important Estonian folk calendar dates, Hingedeaeg could stretch from October to November, or it could start as early as the end of September.

A key date in this period is Hingedepäev (All Souls' Day), which will be taking place on Monday November 2nd. This is on the same day as El Día de Muertos in Mexico, where families vibrantly decorate and bring food to the graves of family members. All Soul's Day is part of the Christian calendar, but this time of year is important for Christians and Pagans alike.

Maavalla Koda has denoted regional variations in the way deceased relatives have been received at home during Hingedeaeg: northern Estonians prepare a table of food for ancestors in a room or sauna at home, while southern Estonians put the food up in the attic. Historically, families might have asked for their fields to be protected by the spirits of their ancestors. Admittedly, most of us are removed from the rural way of life where we would be in a position to ask souls to watch over fields. Perhaps it's just as fitting to light some candles and think about those people we miss and that have impacted our lives, such that we still feel their influence on a daily basis.

The evenings are still just long enough and moderate enough that you can enjoy some of these activities on evenings after work and school, or on the weekends. It's a peaceful and reflective time of year to appreciate the movement of time itself.

This article was written by Vincent Teetsov as part of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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