Christmas In Latvia
Latvia has a couple of Christmas traditions and some of them will seem normal to us. Some will seem crazy weird. Latvia celebrates Christmas on December 25th, just like us but this holiday is closely linked with pagan winter solstice celebrations known as Yule. Children in Latvia believe that Santa Claus brings their presents and places them under their Christmas tree. They open their presents either on Christmas Eve or Christmas day. The presents are usually put under the tree while people are in church. When you get a present, you sometimes have to recite a short poem while standing beside the Christmas tree. The children are taught to memorize poems before Christmas time. You can also receive a present if you dance, play a musical instrument, or sing.
Latvia claims to be the home of the very first Christmas tree. The very first known usage of an evergreen Christmas tree around Christmas time was in the town square of Riga, which is the capital of Latvia. It became known in the year of 1510. Most people think that the Christmas tree tradition came from Germany, but this was the very first. The five hundredth anniversary of the Latvian Christmas tree was celebrated in 2010.
Another major Christmas tradition for Latvians is the famous Christmas feast. The feast includes brown/grey peas with bacon (pork) sauce, small pies, cabbage, sausage, bacon rolls and gingerbread. On Christmas Eve, they are not allowed to eat meat because of Christian traditions. So, on December 24th, there has to be nine different dishes on the table with none of them containing meat. If you do not eat boiled grey peas, you will cry the next year. The grey peas symbolize tears. So, their motto is “always eat the peas”. With the grey peas, it is recommended that they drink kefir or curdled milk.
Something that will seem weird to us is the dragging of the yule log. They get the yule log and roll it around their house to get rid of any evil spirits. After all of the evil spirits are gone, they burn the log. They also go masquerading from one home to the next while singing and playing different games. The death will definitely come in the masquerade. So if you are a friend of death and dance with him during the winter solstice, you are not going to die next year.
During the month of December, you can purchase decorations, crafts, toys, from the Riga Christmas market. You can buy or taste traditional Christmas food like sauerkraut, gingerbread, smoked meats, and many more. You can also buy mittens, socks, and slippers made from lambswool. Most tourist that visit Latvia recommend the Riga Black Balsam. The Riga market is open the entire month of December and the first part of January. The market is on Dome Square in Old Town Riga. You can also meet reindeer and penguins on the streets in Latvia. Around this time, there are plenty of things to do. Christmas concerts are held at the Dome Square, activities for children, and the Riga Cathedral which is in the center of the Old Town.
St. Peter’s church is the highest building in Riga so tourist say you do not want to miss this attraction. You can take an elevator to the very top of the church to see the top of Riga. If you go around Christmas time, be sure to bundle up because most tourist said they returned to the bottom frozen. Tourist also say that Livu Square is a great place to visit around Christmas. If you bundle up and you are brave, you can ride the ferris wheel that they have there. The weather in Latvia around this time of the year is very brutal. It is super cold and most people say the wind is the worst part. That's why very few people can and/or will ride the ferris wheel.