The most important holiday for every Latvian is the Summer Solstice festival.
A great feast, song and dance, the shortest night of the year spent in front of a bonfire, mystical rituals and even a bit of romance – this is what makes the Līgo celebration or Jāņi.
What is Līgo?
Many ancient traditions that have disappeared in Europe are alive and well in Latvia. Especially Midsummer Night (June 23). This 3-day celebration of the summer solstice is the biggest and most beloved holiday in Latvia.
Farms are bedecked with garlands of oak branches and meadow flowers. Nearly everyone leaves the city for the open air so that the shortest night of the year can be spent in the merry company of friends Campfires are lit, special songs are sung, dancing is a universal element during the festival. Latvia's Midsummer night celebration is called Jāņi in Latvian, and it is the one night of the year that you must never sleep. Most activities are outside and center around a huge bonfire. A bonfire is set and jumping over it is a tradition. According to Latvian custom bonfire should light all over the night.
A traditional special type of cheese with caraway seeds, made out of curd called Janu cheese and beer is made by Latvians, which is consumed by them and gifted to others along with their greetings. The day before Midsummer is often known as Herb Day as herbs and flowers are collected at Jani. The herbs and roots are collected for their significant healing powers. Latvia has a tradition of wearing wreaths of flowers and herbs for women and leaves for the men. In respect to festival name, oak wreaths are worn by men named 'Jānis' (Jānis being Latvian for John). According to the Latvian tradition, there is a magical fern which blooms only that night. Latvians believe whoever finds it that night, will get love and happiness.
Jāņi is celebrated on the summer solstice on 23 and 24 June. This pagan-like holiday is almost more popular in Latvia than New Year's Eve and Christmas.
Photo of Latvian Wild Flowers.