Christmas in Latvia

Figure 1.-- This Christmas scene from Latvia shows children with Father Christmas, we think in the late 1930s. Two boys wear ankle-length knickers. The oldest boy seems to be wearing a smock or tunic.

Christmas in one of the most important holidays in Latvia. Like Easter, however, it was discouraged for many years by Soviet authorities promoting athiesm. The Christmas season in Latvia begins with Advent. Many families put up Advent wreaths. Father Christmas is an important Christmas figure for Latvian children. He traditinally brings presents on each of the 12 days of Christmas, beginning on Christmas Eve. The presents are usually put under the family Christmas tree. The children thus get about 2 weeks of presents, but of course most are small treats. Latvians claims to have put up the first Christmas Tree. They insist thsat the first documented use of a evergreen tree at Christmas and New Year was at town square of Riga (1510). Little informatin is available on this first tree ther than it was attended by men wearing black hats and that after an undescribed ceremony, it was burnt. At the time it was a German-dominated Hanseatic town. Latvians attend a church service on Christmas Eve. This is more common than on Christmas Day. The Christmas Day meal is another tradition. Popular foods include potatoes with sauerkraut and pork, brown peas/lentils with bacon (pork) sauce, small pies, cabbage and sausage. Gingerbread is a major Chrstmas tradition. The major gifts are exchanged following the Christmas meal. The children are expected to recite a short poem while standing next to the Christmas tree! December 25 was chosen by the early Church because it was the Winter Solstice, a day already celebrated by pagan people. Perhaps because the Baltics were one of the last areas of Europe to be Christinized, pagan traditions continue to be important. One such tradition is a wooden block that is rolled around the house to drive away evil spirits. A tradition surviving in rural areaas is masquerading from one home to another. This tradition includes caroling and various games.


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Created: 3:30 PM 11/14/2007
Last updated: 3:30 PM 11/14/2007