Latvians are generally known for being poised, hard working and independent individuals who take pleasure in the small things of life quietly. However, on the shortest evening of the year (usually falling end June), they hold absolutely nothing back at ensuring some festive frolics and fun are had! It’s this time of the year when you realize just how deeply rooted their culture is to their ancestral beliefs as they celebrate their connection with mother nature through several rituals and customs in the countryside.
The young, the old, friends, strangers and everyone in between are all warmly welcomed to join hands while chanting and dancing around the bonfire for the Jāņi celebration. This is one of - if not the biggest - event in the Latvian calendar celebrated until the morning sun greets the horizon.
As the sun is at its proudest, many believe nature’s blessings are most powerful on this day, so an impressive amount and variety of garlands and herbs are part of the action. Flowers adorn women's heads, and for men it's oak leaves. It’s also believed that walking on the morning-after dew provides wealth (no doubt associated with harvests by their ancestors), and women can wash their faces in the nearest stream for beauty. Talk about being immersed in a culture!
What you can expect
Nothing celebrates a nation’s culture more than when such a wide range of folk, art, music, food and beliefs take place at the same time. Latvians naturally want to share this energy with others and if you travel to Latvia, you’ll find yourself welcomed openly. Līgo takes place on the night from 23rd to 24th of June. Although the event is typically spent in the countryside, Riga honors this significant event equally with a spectacular programs such as sing-a-long serenades, talks on folklore traditions, games and entertainment from nationally-acclaimed performers.
Enjoy traditional food and beer
This is also a great chance of to sample locally-brewed beers (some of which are only produced in small, very special batches) and most of all, a wide range of food from several regions which includes mouth watering caraway cheese, sausages and smoked meat. You’ll need this for fuel to last the entire event which lasts till sunrise!