It is celebrated all over Latvia, with the beautiful name “Ligo Day”. It is a national holiday – Ligo Day! The annual celebration of the Summer Solstice which marks the longest day of the year.To see important ads, turn off your ad blocker! Article continued below:
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.Ligo Diena, 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 Diena” is an ancient festival originally celebrated in honor a Latvian pagan deity Jānis (also spelt Yahnis).
Referred to as a “Son of God” in some ancient Latvian folksinging.
Janis 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 Jānis is also etymologically linked with other names of various nations, such as Aeneas, Dionysus, Jesus, Joshua, Jonash, Jan, Jean, Johan,…
“Līgo Diena” 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 “Līgo Diena” 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.
Despite common belief, no remarkable increase in birthrates is observed nine months later 🙂
How Latvians celebrate Ligo Day in Latvia, Jāņi?
Līgo Day, also known as Jāņi, is a traditional Latvian celebration that takes place on the night of June 23rd, which coincides with the summer solstice. Jāņi is one of the most important holidays in Latvia, and it is marked by various customs and traditions that reflect the country’s agrarian heritage and connection to nature.
“Līgo Diena”, Bonfires.
Bonfires play a central role in Jāņi celebrations. People gather in the countryside or designated areas where large bonfires are lit. It is believed that the fires ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. People sing and dance around the bonfires, creating a festive atmosphere.
“Līgo Diena”, Wreath making.
Women and girls traditionally make wreaths from flowers and herbs, often using oak leaves, birch branches, and various wildflowers. These wreaths are worn on the head during the celebrations, symbolizing fertility and the blossoming of nature.
Singing and dancing.
Latvians have a rich tradition of folk songs and dances, and Jāņi is a time when these traditions are celebrated. People gather in groups to sing and dance traditional folk songs, known as “dainas,” and perform circle dances, known as “riga.” The songs often depict themes of love, nature, and the changing seasons.
Jāņi is a time for feasting and enjoying traditional Latvian foods. A popular dish during the celebrations is a cheese-filled pastry called “jāņu siers.”
Other traditional foods include smoked meats, sausages, potatoes, and various dairy products. It is also common to have a variety of herbal teas and homemade alcoholic beverages, such as beer and mead.
“Līgo Diena”, Midnight rituals.
At midnight, certain rituals are performed to bring good fortune. One such ritual involves couples or single people running through the forest and bathing in a river or lake to purify themselves.
Another ritual involves searching for the mythical fern flower, which is believed to bloom only on this night and bring luck and wealth to those who find it.
Traditional games and activities.
Various games and activities are organized during Jāņi celebrations. These can include sack races, tug-of-war competitions, and traditional sports like pole climbing. People also enjoy spending time outdoors, going for walks in nature, and participating in various recreational activities.
Jāņi is a time when Latvians come together to celebrate their cultural heritage, enjoy the beauty of nature, and welcome the summer season. It is a festive and joyful occasion that brings communities together and creates a sense of shared identity and tradition.
“Līgo Diena” and John’s poems and beliefs.
Ligo and St. John’s poems and beliefs are an integral part of the Latvian celebration of Jāņi. These poems and beliefs are rooted in folklore and mythology and have been passed down through generations. They add an extra layer of symbolism and meaning to the festivities.
“Līgo Diena”, Poems.
During the Jāņi celebrations, people recite Ligo poems, which are traditional verses or rhymes that express the joy and spirit of the holiday.
These poems are often lively, humorous, and sometimes a bit provocative. They are recited while dancing and singing around the bonfires, adding to the festive atmosphere. Ligo poems are an important part of the cultural and artistic expression during Jāņi.
“Jānīts sēd kalniņā,
Zelta kokli koklēdams.
Nāc, Jānīti, sētiņā,
Nāc meitiņu pulciņā,
Tad māmiņa tev iedos
Jāņa siera gabaliņu”.
Rough translation, it turned out a bit funny!
“Janits is sitting on a hill,
Golden wood while woodworking.
Come, John, in the yard,
Come to the girl group,
Then mommy will give it to you
A piece of St. John’s cheese”.
“Līgo Diena”, Beliefs.
Jāņi celebrations in Latvia are also associated with various beliefs and superstitions surrounding St. John’s Day, as it falls near the Christian holiday of St. John the Baptist. These beliefs are a blend of pagan and Christian traditions. Some common St. John’s beliefs include
Magical properties of water.
It is believed that water has special powers during Jāņi. Bathing in a river or lake during the night of Jāņi is said to bring health and beauty, as well as ward off evil spirits. Water collected during this time is believed to have healing properties.
One of the most well-known beliefs is the search for the mythical fern flower. According to folklore, the fern flower blooms only on the night of Jāņi, and finding it brings good luck and prosperity.
The search for the fern flower is often associated with a midnight ritual and is seen as a quest for hidden treasures.
Herbs and plants.
Different herbs and plants play a significant role during Jāņi celebrations. Oak leaves and flowers, as well as birch branches, are commonly used in wreaths and decorations. These plants symbolize strength, fertility, and the connection to nature.
These beliefs and traditions surrounding St. John’s Day and Jāņi add a touch of mysticism and enchantment to the celebrations, connecting Latvians with their cultural roots and the natural world. They contribute to the sense of community and shared experience during this festive occasion.
All the best!