Christmas is a very important holiday in Latvian culture and it is celebrated for twelve days beginning with the Advent season.
Christmas is celebrated with a lot of pomp and ceremony and Advent wreaths begin to appear on shop windows a month in advance while the Latvians shop industriously for Christmas presents for family, friends and loved ones.
Latvians believe that Father Christmas brings presents on each of the 12 days of Christmas starting on Christmas Eve.
Although Christmas is celebrated all over the world as the birth of Jesus, in traditional Latvian culture it is celebrated as the rebirth of the Sun maiden. Here are some pointers to celebrating Christmas, Latvian style.
A few suggestions
- Begin the preparations by hanging Advent wreaths all over the house.
- Decorate the rooms with three-dimensional straw or reed ornaments known by many different vernacular names. Use as much natural materials as possible to make them.
- Participate in the traditional activity of mumming. Mummers wear costumes and masks (bear, horse, crane, wolf, goat, haystack, tall woman, small man, death, etc.) and travel from homestead to homestead or from village to village blessing homes, encouraging fertility and driving away evil spirits.
- Bake lots of Latvian gingerbread and almond cookies and share them with friends and family.
- Prepare a special Christmas meal that includes potatoes with sauerkraut and pork, and lentils with bacon. The banquet’s most characteristic food must include a pig’s head which has been boiled together with barley mashed with a pestle. Share this meal with family and friends and afterwards exchange gifts with everybody.
- Gather around the Christmas tree that has been decked up with candles, gingerbread cookies and mandarin oranges. Make sure that everyone who gets a gift recites a poem standing next to the Christmas tree.
- Gather your family and friends to drag a Yule log (a big wooden log) around your house as the symbolic collecting and burning of last year’s problems and misfortunes. Go from home to home doing this and burn up the log at the last place.
- Wish everyone ‘Priecigus Ziemassvetkus’ or Merry Christmas.
- Don’t copy all traditions or you will end up working hard and having no fun at all.