Marika Ahven ja Tuule Kann 2011. aasta maarjapäeval Radajal seto labaga kannelt mängimas Foto: Aado Lintrop (2011)

Folk Culture

Folk culture is made up of different domains of our culture

The field of folk culture includes

creative recreational activities based on national traditions, traditional culture, intangible cultural heritage, research, preservation and recording of national and local cultural traditions, public cultural events and folk cultural activities, training and continuing education.

The domains of folk culture are

folk dancing, choral singing, brass music, national handicrafts, amateur theatre, folk culture related societal activities, intangible cultural heritage and traditional culture (including folk music and folk dance).

On its website, the Estonian Centre of Folk Culture presents a system of signs called family marks, which we use to signify the activities we offer.

Family marks symbolise the parts of our cultural space

Foto: Aivar Pihelgas


Estonian folk dance is part of our intangible cultural heritage. By folk dance, we mean traditional dances passed down from generation to generation as well as original dances created in the folk style. Folk dance is a type of folklore that exists in variants and does not have a single and fixed form.



Estonian folk music is live Estonian music that has its roots in historical musical folklore, is intended for public performance and socially cultivated. It can be intertwined with modern art and pop music, as well as with the rhythmic structures and performance styles of the music of other nations (Celts, Finns, Swedes, etc.). This also includes professional and original music in which traditional singing and playing styles are used

(Source: “Development of the Term and Conception of the Traditional Music in Estonia”)

Foto: Kaarel Mikkin


Our language is part of our cultural heritage. “A native language is an asset because language is what unites us. Learning the mother tongue, higher education and culture in our native tongue – by preserving these, we preserve our spiritual identity, which makes us unique among other nations and that, perhaps, is the underlying idea of the Estonian state.”

(Source: Reet Kasik “Emakeele väärtus” (“The Value of Mother Tongue”), Sirp 2018)


Foto: Renee Altrov


Estonian cuisine as part of our intangible cultural heritage originates from ancient traditions and the clean nature. Although we are influenced by many cultures, the authentic Estonian taste has been preserved. It is important that our children and grandchildren do not forget the food traditions of our ancestors. Folk calendar holidays are important, the most important of them being Christmas and New Year, because those are the holidays when serving meat jelly (sült), roast pork or goose, baked potatoes, sauerkraut, lingonberry jam and blood sausages is a must…


Foto: Rait Avestik


The theatre hobby, like any other culture-related hobby, does not only mean participation in and contribution to culture but is also a socio-cultural phenomenon through which people who have not studied to become professional actors can express themselves. As a part of the performing arts, amateur theatre belongs in the realm of intangible cultural heritage by its very nature.

(Source: Iiri Saar, master’s thesis “Adult Amateur Theatre in Estonia. Management and Problems of Amateur Theatre”, 2014, University of Tartu)

Foto: Kaspar Orasmäe


Estonian handicraft is a recognized and diverse cultural phenomenon, which comprises various unique fields, is popular and loved. Estonian handicraft is valued as an expression of Estonian identity. Estonian handicrafts are important to Estonians and valued as something unique by foreigners. Traditional craft skills are an important part of our intangible cultural heritage.

(Source: Estonian Folk Art and Craft Union )


Foto: Kaspar Orasmäe


To tell stories, you need a storyteller, subject matter and a listener. Nowadays, there is an additional important prerequisite, which is time! Our ancestors had time, subjects, listeners and storytellers. They knew that storytelling helps a person to connect with the surrounding world, including the community. By telling stories, the experiences, knowledge and values necessary for the continuation of life were passed on.

Storytelling is part of our intangible cultural heritage. The telling of folk tales has been attributed a special, magical meaning. Storytelling was hoped to ensure success in hunting, fishing, herding and farming.

(Source: storyteller Piret Päär)

Foto: Kaarel Mikkin


Folk art is a part of folk culture, an artistic creation that manifests itself in the form and decorations of consumer items and tools, clothing, furniture and buildings (mostly residential). Wool, linen, wood, clay, bark, thatch, leather, horn, bone, metal, stone, etc. have been used as materials. Many nations have also developed a national professional art movement inspired by folk art, this being especially common in applied art.

(Source: Estonian Encyclopaedia)

Foto: Kaa


Community activities, rituals and festive events are also a part of our intangible cultural heritage. Customs are specific ways of behaving or functioning, social norms and customs that developed as a result of behavioural patterns, which are inherent (inherited from previous generations) to a particular group of people. Following customs is our habitual way of acting or behaving; our custom, habit.

(Source: Explanatory Dictionary of the Estonian Language)

Vaade Soera talumuuseumile. Pikad korendusaiad on enamasti muuseumide juures. Mida uuem aed, seda hõredam. Foto: Urmas Liit (2018)


With this mark we denote, above all, for the purpose of training courses, that part of our intangible cultural heritage which is related to cultural organisation in community centres, local governments and counties across Estonia.

With this mark, we signify various initiatives related to cultural policy, as well as training courses and seminars related to general skills and key competences.