It’s today – Summer Solstice. And, yes, it really is important here: one of the most important holidays for people in Latvia. By the way of the Sun it’s usually on 21st or 22nd of June, when the day is longer than night. By calendar the shortest night over the year is celebrated on 23rd – 24th of June. These ar official holidays. It’s totally pagan tradition and we love it. If you are in Riga you will see different festivites starting from the 21st of June on squares, streets, markets, parks etc.
Summer solstice is the time when all powers of the nature are stronger than any other day, so you have to go to sauna with herbs, take herbs from meadows to dry them for tea, to decorate your home and yourself with flowers. Forget gardens and take all the flowers you can find in meadows. The main things on Midsummers celebration are beer, cheese, fire, flowers, songs and dances. And mistycal blossom of fern...
1) Everyone has to stay awake all night long near the fire until sunrise;
2) It’s the night you have to drink beer and jump over the fire;
3) You have to sing and dance a lot;
4) There are a lot of activies in cities/towns, but this is the time people really get out of the city to the countryside;
5) Girls decorate themselves by flower wreaths on their heads, boys named Jānis are decorated by leaves of oak trees.
And these ferns... Actually - ferns don’t have any flowers. But this night they have. Not everyone can find them. Usually people go in pairs to look for these blossoms, some people say you can find them also alone – and you get luck for all the rest of life if you find it. But we all know – only going in the wood in a couple can help you to find the blossom of fern. Kids also can be found in ferns...
Swimming naked, dancing, singing about your neighbours and other Līgo songs, putting special branches at home that witches can’t come, eating yellow cheese – the symbol of the sun, cooking meet, looking for wonders, washing your face in mornings dew to be beautiful.. Names like Līga (for girls) and Jānis (for boys) are celebrating their names day on Midsummer. It’s a wonderfull night.
If you are in Riga these days – check the Old Town, The Central Market, actually – flowers, midsummers songs, traditional dances you will find everywhere. But better – get out of the city – closer to ferns.
There is a movie - comedy made about Latvian Midsummers traditions with popular Latvian, French, German and other actors – about foreigners who have arrived in Latvia at midsummer – all these traditions which seems so strange for foreigners, but they enjoy them. It is in English and it’s called „Midsummers Madness” . If you are a little bit scared of these pagan traditions, watch the movie and you will see how much fun (and how magic) this night can be!