Kekri celebration at Loimaa, western Finland in 1972. Picture: Museovirasto – Musketti

The modern All Saints’ Day is celebrated to commemorate the lost ones. Candles are lit in the graveyards, hugs are shared, a few tears may be dropped.

Originally, All Saints’ Day was celebrated as a harvest festival, kekri, when the harvest had been gathered, without a date in the calendar.

The end of harvest season varied from house to house. Kekri could be celebrated between late summer and autumn. Since the beginning of the 19th century, the day has been celebrated on November 1.

In different Finnish dialects, kekri has also been known as keyri or köyri. The conjugated word “köyriä” is also a Finnish verb for sexual intercourse. According to one explanation, the origin of the word can be traced to old Finnish poems where they tried to make the bull excited to impregnate the cow, an act known as “köyriä.”

All Saints’ Day celebrations at Hietaniemi cemetary in 2014. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Alcohol has always played a big part of harvest festivals in Finland. By boozing up, the peasants rewarded themselves for working all summer. Many believed that the more drunk the farm owner got, the better would the next year’s harvest be. On the contrary, if the farm owner passed out, the harvest would turn out bad.

Kekri celebration at Suomenlinna, Helsinki. Picture: Pohjolanpoluilla

Big bonfires in the village have always been included in kekri celebrations. Anything old was good for burning, including old sledges and house parts.

The villagers were also entertained by the village men (and sometimes children and women) dressed up as “köyripukki,” a sort of “köyri boogeyman.” According to the old folk wisdom, köyripukki visited the village houses dressed in a coat turned upside down. It’s demands were food and drinks. The best offer was hard liquor.

A female version of köyripukki in 1927. Picture: Ahti Rytkönen / Museovirasto – Musketti

If köyripukki was not treated with hospitality, it may have threatened to break the oven. Often an agreement was found.

After touring the village, köyripukki was usually found unexceptionally drunk.

Sources: Uusi ajantieto (WSOY), Old Finnish poems