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Summer Solstice Celebration in Latvia

by Elena on January 25, 2019

Do not miss the most Latvian holiday of all – Jāņi or “Liigo!”, the night from June 23 to June 24 (in harmony with the summer solstice), when people participate in joyous festivities just as their ancestors did centuries ago.

Here are some must-do’s of this beautiful, and, probably, the most iconic Latvian holiday:

#1 Eat, drink and be merry

Jāņi is ideally celebrated in nature, making garlands of oak leaves or wild flowers, going to the sauna, drinking beer and devouring copious amounts of caraway cheese – best if homemade. The entire proceedings are serenaded by a sing-along – the enchanting Jāņi folk songs with the “Liigo!” refrain.

#2 Keep traditions alive

Jāņi was originally a festival for pagan farmers that existed long before the arrival of Christianity and the traditions of the festival remain immensely popular to this day.

#3 Don’t let the rain get you down

Latvians often say “līst kā pa Jāņiem” (it’s raining as if it were Jāņi) since the weather on Jāņi night is usually not the most pleasant.

This, however, is never an obstacle for the merrymaking. Be it a sunny day, or raining cats and dogs Latvians always celebrate at their rural homesteads, or go to an open-air party to dance, sing and be together in good company.

#4 Roam the fields

Wild flowers picked on the summer solstice are believed to have healing powers. In honour of Jāņi, homes are decorated with birch, oak and rowan branches, ferns, oxeye daisies and bents. Nettles and thistles can be attached to the door-frame to keep evil spirits out. Women weave wildflower wreaths to decorate themselves.

#5 Stock up on food and decorations

One can buy everything he or she needs for a proper celebration at the annual Herbal Market on Dome Square where vendors sell not only the traditional attributes for Jāņi festivities – garlands, oak-leaf or flower crowns and wild flowers, but also local farm produce. Plenty of food is a must as celebrations last all day and night!

#6 Leap over the bonfire

One of the hallmarks of Jāņi is leaping over the bonfire which is meant to rid people of their burdens. Couples leap holding hands, so that the magical force of the flames binds them together.

#7 Pop into the woods

They say Jāņi night is the only time of the year when one can see the mysterious and mythical fern flower. No one ever has but this is considered an excuse for couples to sneak away for some alone time in the woods.

#8 Patiently await the sunrise

One must not sleep on Jāņi night! Sleeping is only allowed after sunrise. At dawn, one should walk through the morning dew – this brings money. And those who wash their face in the dew are guaranteed beauty.

#9 Celebrate Jāņi in Riga

Those who like to stay in the capital city have a special festive programme prepared for them every year with a contemporary take on Jāņi hosted at 11. novembra krastmala on the shores of the Daugava River, as well as a more traditional celebration at Dzegužkalns Park in the Pārdaugava neighbourhood.

We, at UlkoTours, have great options for your summer break in Latvia. Visit our website to choose the tour you like and book it as soon as possible!


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