Kekri is a very old Finnish celebration that has been celebrated since the medieval times and even before that. It has always been a time to celebrate the ending of the year and the crop that has been collected from the fields. In the old times it was not fixed on one date. Every farm usually celebrated it, when the harvesting was finished. That happened between end of September and beginning of November. In the beginning of the 19th century it became custom to celebrate it near or on the All Saint’s Day (Pyhäinpäivä) in the beginning of November. Nowadays it is celebrated in some cities or parishes and more or less in kindergartens and schools as a competitor for Halloween. Actually Kekri is the cousin of Halloween. ;)
In the old days the hired help of the farm house got their one week holiday starting from Kekri. And the year was changed at Kekri not on New Year as it is now. After the Kekri had been celebrated on the farm the hired help (maids and farmhands) could travel to their relatives and spend some time there.
The house was cleaned well for Kekri. The tables were full of fresh food made from the just harvested crop. Soups, bread, lamb, porridge, fish. The more there were food from dawn till dusk, the better the crop would be next year. And if they run out of food, it meant that next year there would be hunger.
There were plays, singing and dancing on Kekri. Most of the people drank quite much alcohol at the Kekri party. Depending on the parish the master’s drinking ability was well followed. In some places it was thought, that if the master was well drunk during Kekri, there would be a very good crop next year. In other places it was thought that if the master drank too much or passed out due to excessive amount of alcohol, the crop would flatten next summer.
The Kekri time was the last time before next summer to get actual fresh food in Finland. The fall was time to butcher animals, so there was fresh meat. Rest of the meat was stored in salt liquid or dried. The potatoes, carrots, turnips and beetroots were fresh. Then they were stored in the cellar or preserved. The barley, wheat, rye and oat were just harvested. And usually there was still fresh milk. By Christmas most of the cows were no more producing milk.
At Kekri we can also manufacture Finnish lantern. It is not made out of pumpkin, although those can be nowadays also seen in the yards in Finland. Lantern here is called kitupiikki (cheapskate) and it is made by caving a turnip hollow, putting some lamb ‘s sebum on the bottom and inserting a thin stick into the sebum and then lightning it. It gives a very dim light, that’s why the name.
Happy harvesting party!