Finnish Holiday Traditions

Kekri Celebrates the end of the Harvest


Kekri is one of the old Finnish traditions that was forgotten in some point. Before the Christianity, Kekri was the most important celebration of the year.

Kekri was the name of the ancient Finnish god of agriculture, livestock and fertility. Kekri was also the name of the feast that celebrated the end of the harvest season. In different parts of the country Kekri was known by different names. It was also called Keyri and Köyri.

When Kekri was Celebrated?

Kekri has its roots in the old European agricultural culture. Kekri was a celebration of both the harvest season and the end of the calendar year. In the old days it was celebrated in the autumn when the harvest season had ended.

The exact date of the celebration varied by the region, by the village, or even by the house. Celebration could have last for several days. And in the best case, when the celebration ended in your house, the party might just have started at the neigbor.

How Kekri was Celebrated?

Kekri was a celebration of joy. People used to sing, dance, play games and tell stories to each other. Young people dressed up as “kekripukki” (Kekri goat) or “kekritär” (Kekri lady). Kekripukki wore a fur coat and horns, while kekritär was dressed in all-white. Kekripukki and kekritär went from house to house and people offered them food and drink.

Eating and drinking were a big part of the celebration. It was believed that a large amount of food guaranteed the success of the next year’s harvest. If the food would have run out, it would have been a bad omen. The Kekri menu might have included roast lamb, sausages, bread, porridge, root vegetables, beer and alcohol.

12 Day Break

After Kekri celebration followed 12 day break. Which was probably welcomed after a couple of days heavy eating and drinking. This time had to be spent quietly. During this break most of the work was forbidden. If you were going to work, it had to be something quiet.

This was also the time to remember the ancestors. Spirits of the ancestors came to check how you were doing. If you treated them with respect they brought you good luck for the coming year. Ancestors were happy if you heated sauna for them. And before you went to sauna, you first left some food on the table for the ancestors to enjoy. Among the spirits there were also restless souls. Bonfires were burnt to keep these unwanted evil spirits away.

Modern Kekri Celebration

Old Kekri traditions and celebrations were forgotten in some point. However, Kekri has recently made a comeback as an authentic Finnish tradition. Nowadays Kekri is celebrated as public events in many places around Finland, for example in Suomenlinna. Modern Kekri celebrations with bonfires and light shows are a great way to bring joy and light to the darkest time of the year.

Kekritär photographed in 1927. Image by Ahti Rytkänen / Finnish Heritage Agency

University of Jyväskylä
Viaporin Kekri
Images by Finnish Heritage Agency. Featured image is a painting by Juho Rissanen.