Seto Kingdom Day

Cultural in Setomaa

According to tradition, the Seto god/king Peko sleeps night and day in his cave of sand near Pechory. So on Seto Kingdom Day – proclaimed on the first Saturday in August – the Seto people gather in a different part of their district each year to appoint an ülemtsootska (regent). This colourful event is as fascinating as it is kooky.

Contenders for regent must be fluent in the Seto language, nominated by 10 of their peers and have their case sung for them by a traditional Seto leelo choir. They then must stand on a stump while their compatriots line up in front of their favourite.

Just as important as choosing this de facto cultural ambassador is preserving traditional Seto folk industries, so competitions are held to select the best mitten and belt knitters, and bread, beer, wine and cheese makers. There's also a strongman contest.

And so the royal court is completed. Amid the day’s celebrations, traditional Seto songs and dances are performed and customary good wishes exchanged. The women are adorned with traditional Seto lace and large silver breastplates and necklaces, said to weigh as much as 3kg each. Later in the day respects are paid to the dead and everyone joins in the parade of the 'Seto army', wielding farm implements and the like.