CHRISTMAS Traditions in Latvia 2017



CHRISTMAS Traditions in Latvia:

Though Latvia celebrates CHRISTMAS on December 25, known as Yule. Yule was symbolic of the pagan Sun God, Mithras, being born, and was observed on the shortest day of the year. As the Sun God grew and matured, the days became longer and warmer. It was customary to light a candle to encourage Mithras, and the sun, to reappear next year. One of the ancient traditions associated with Latvian CHRISTMAS is the dragging of the Yule log around the house. After dragging the Yule log, it was burned in honour of the sun. The word Yule itself means wheel, the wheel being a pagan symbol for the sun.

Latvia is closely associated with the CHRISTMAS tree, and some legends say it was in Riga that the first CHRISTMAS tree was decorated in front of the House of Blackheads on Town Hall Square in 1510. Whether or not this is true makes no difference, because the tradition of decorating CHRISTMAS trees is alive and well in Latvia. One is erected every year in that legendary spot on the medieval square. The tree is the one symbol that unites almost all the northern European winter solstices. Live evergreen trees were often brought into homes during the harsh winters as a reminder to inhabitants that soon their crops would grow again.CHRISTMAS trees in Latvia can be decorated in a variety of ways, but hanging CHRISTMAS ornaments made of natural materials like straw is one of the most traditional. The 500th anniversary of the Latvian CHRISTMAS tree was celebrated in 2010. The legend says that the first Riga tree in 1510 was decorated with paper flowers and burnt on the bonfire after the ceremony; most probably, with a toast for the future, with steins held high!

Children in Latvia believe that Santa Claus (also known as Ziemassvētku vecītis – CHRISTMAS old man) and his assistants – little dwarves (in Latvian called Ziemassvētku rūķīši) bring their presents. The presents are usually secretly put under the CHRISTMAS tree when people are not around. The presents are opened on during the Evening of CHRISTMAS Eve or on CHRISTMAS Day. Sometimes to get a present you have to recite a short poem while standing next to the CHRISTMAS Tree! Before CHRISTMAS children learn to say poems by heart. You might also get a present by singing, playing a musical instrument or doing a dance!

Latvian CHRISTMAS traditions include the CHRISTMAS feast with special meal – cooked brown/grey peas with bacon (pork) sauce, small pies, stewed sauerkraut and sausages, bacon rolls and gingerbread – and the singing of carols.

During the month of December, you can purchase traditional decorations, handmade crafts, including toys (many of them carved from wood) at the Riga CHRISTMAS market. You can also buy and taste traditional CHRISTMAS food like gingerbread, sauerkraut, smoked meats, and more.

The Riga CHRISTMAS market is open the entire month of December and the first part of January and is held on Dome Square in Old Town Riga.Though reindeer and penguins do not live in Latvia, you can meet them in the streets of CHRISTMAS Riga.





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