Līgo and Jānis day, Latvian festival!
Is a Latvian festival held in the night from 23 June to 24 June to celebrate the summer solstice (Midsummer), the shortest night and longest day of the year.
Celebrated throughout Latvia, Ligo Diena is the annual celebration of the Summer Solstice which marks the longest day of the year .
It is an ancient practice which dates back to pre-Christian times and has many rituals that are closely associated with nature and the hope for a good harvest in the autumn.
It is a time to be with friends, family and loved ones and is usually celebrated with a big meal during the day before heading out to one of the many public parties which involve traditional dances and more eating, drinking and singing.
Bonfires are also lit which is a ritual that links back to the old tradition of cleansing and warding off evil spirits. The day is a national holiday in Latvia, which is known as Janis.
Līgo and Jānis day!
Ja-n,i is an ancient festival originally celebrated in honour a Latvian pagan deity Ja-nis (also spelt Yahnis), referred to as a “Son of God” in some ancient Latvian folksongs.
Ja-nis is also traditionally the most common of Latvian male given names, corresponding to English name John, and everybody of the name Ja-nis holds a special status on this day (Ja-n,i is a plural form of Ja-nis).
Besides John, the name of Ja-nis is also etymologically linked with other names of various nations, such as Aeneas, Dionysus, Jesus, Joshua, Jonash, Jan, Jean, Johan,…
Ja-n,i also is thought to be the perfect time to gather herbs, because it is believed that they then have magical powers.
Other practices of magic in Ja-n,i vary from fortune-telling to ensuring productivity of crops, as well as livestock fertility.
A well-known part of this celebration is searching for the mythical fern flower, though some suggest that the fern flower is a symbol of secret knowledge; today it is almost always synonymous with having sexual relationships.
Līgo and Jānis day!
Despite common belief, no remarkable increase in birthrates is observed nine months later 🙂
A festival fire must be kept from sunset till sunrise, and various kinds of flaming light sources are used;
usually these are bonfires, which traditionally people jump over to ensure prosperity and fertility.
Traditional food during Ja-n,i is a special type of cheese with caraway seeds, made out of curd, and the traditional drink is beer.
Many people make the cheese of Ja-n,i themselves; a few also make their own beer.
Singing Līgo songs or Jāņi songs is associated with fertility and disaster prevention.
The time of singing Ligo songs began two weeks before Jāņi, reached its highest point on Jāņi Eve and lasted until Peter or Māras Day.
After that they could no longer sing Līgo songs Singing Ligo songs on Jāņi night began after dinner and continued throughout the night until the sun rises, either during jumping over Fire of Jāņi, or while going from houses to houses.
Līgo and Jānis day!
Singing visits on Jāņi were called aplīgošana. Servants were making such visits to their masters and owners, while maidens did it to guys and vice versa.
On Jāņi Day people drank beer and ate cheese, believing that it would help next summer to grow barley and make cows give more milk. Also, singing visitors from neighboring houses were treated with both cheese and beer.
Crown circle, as well as Jāņi cheese and Fire of Jāņi symbolized the sun.
To wreath a crown a variety of flowers and oak leaves are used. It is believed, that crowns braided with thirty nine flowers and herbs prevents disasters and diseases, and repels envious people and foes.
Oak wreaths were given to boys and the landlord, as they promised the blessing of horses and bees.
The day of Līgo ([liːɡu͡o]) and the day of Jāņi are official public holidays and people usually spend them in the countryside.
The festival’s eve Jāņu vakars ([jaːɲu vakars]) is held in the evening and goes on all through the night Jāņu nakts ([jaːɲu nakts]), where people Līgo (sway) into the following day.
Līgo! Līgo! Līgo!