Friday, June 23, 2017

Midsummer Eve in Latvia

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.  It is held every year on the summer solstice.  The sun sets around 10:30 pm and rises at 3:30 am.  Staying up all night to celebrate is part of the grand party. We were told this holiday is bigger than Christmas.

Other rituals include gathering wildflowers to make garlands to wear on your head. Since we celebrated in the city, the wildflowers were brought in from the markets.
The men wear what Paul calls a "lettuce wreath".  The ladies a simple garland of flowers.  Since Paul refused to wear a lettuce wreath, I thought I would try my hand at weaving a flower wreath for him.  

This table was set up with wildflowers and women were happily going at it.  Looks simple enough I thought.  "I can do this" ha, ha.

I grab my posies and begin.  What is the saying.."More easily said than done".  I started out pretty well but when I went to bend it in to a wreath....well....

I think I will stick to quilting.

We settled for a lovely spray of baby's breath in the rim of his hat.  

Most Latvians head to the country for the Summer Solstice where they celebrate with family.  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.

In the city they do things in a bigger way.  

There was a lot of liquor flowing during this celebration, but I don't think anyone dared to jump over this bad boy.

A fun thing for us was to see the children's games.  Milking the cow Latvian style reminded me of the Clark County Fair.

My favorite part was the dancing.  European countries have an abundance of meaningful traditions passed down from their ancestors.  I loved participating in the happy and cheerful renditions of the custom of dance.  BYU Folkdancers...look out!

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