Tradition is a guide and not a jailer. /W. Somerset Maugham/
Līgo (Sway) – the summer solstice is one of favourite Latvian holidays, celebrating the shortest night and longest day of a year. It is held in the night from the 23rd to the 24th of June and usually spent in the countryside. The way Līgo is celebrated has much to do with pagan traditions but the most important thing is togetherness and being on the same “wavelength” with nature.
Līgo is thought to be the time when the forces of nature are at their most powerful, and the boundaries between the physical and spiritual worlds are thinnest. Just like ages ago, people still decorate their houses with rowan, oak and birch branches in order to protect themselves from evil. Women wear wreaths made from meadow flowers as well as gather different herbs. Another important detail is fire that must be kept from sunset till sunrise. There are various types of bonfires all around the country that night, which traditionally people jump over to ensure prosperity and 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. Young couples traditionally search for the flower and many believe there is an increase in births nine months later.
Traditional food during Līgo is a special type of cheese with cumin seeds, made out of curd, and the traditional drink is beer.
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last embers of bonfire
shortest night meets longest day
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Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey
Rila Monastery, Bulgaria
Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence, Italy
Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, Portugal
Rundāle Palace, Latvia
This is the week of Nationwide Latvian Song and Dance Celebration back home and while dipping my toes in the Black Sea in Bulgaria, I do miss that speckled buzz of so many different patterns and tones. Miss being right in the middle of it, going with the flow and feeling that a bit special wave. So, this post came together naturally and – like my blogging friend Gunta said – about memories that are almost a century old… ♪♫♫♪
Latvians are a small, grumpy nation that lives at the Baltic Sea (the last time I checked it was still in Europe) and once in 5 years quite many of them get together to celebrate singing and dancing. Just to be clear – we do sing and dance more often than that (daily humming and working on the right moves in the shower counts, too), yet in a different way, of course. By “quite many” I mean around 41 000, not an insignificant number for such a small country, wouldn’t you agree? The young and old ones, the well tanned and the pale ones (who definitely will have some more color in the end of the week as well)…from towns, cities and the country-side…all their roads lead to Riga, the capital. That is where in the first week of July they make the Latvian Song and Dance Festival happen. Not to get deep in the historical side of the story, I just want to mention it all started in 1873 and this year we have the 25th Song and the 15th Dance festival. I believe, this very moment while I am happily typing away, the participants have already had their breakfast in school dormitories all across Riga, have been “packed” in buses and brought to the rehearsal places. It is fun and quite wild week – have been there, done that and must admit I feel certain sadness not being a part of the colorful and vital crowd this year. A tiny piece of the puzzle that has been worked on step by step whole year and finally is about to be put together looking in its best. And yes, it is a bit difficult to explain where exactly all the positive vibes come from but they are very present…somewhere among the lyrics of songs and dance steps, air matresses and sleeping bags, bright patterns of costumes and garlands, sleepless nights, the old pine – trees around the estrade and the feeling of sharing something unique. It is in the air…maybe a bit elusive, indefinable but so powerful and alive.
There’re many concerts and different singing&dancing events during the week but on the last day – the 2 most important ones every participant is looking forward to: the big festive parade through the main streets of Riga (usually taking some 4-5 hours no matter what the weather is) and the culmination of the festival – the grand closing concert. You know…standing on the steps of the big estrade and singing my heart out together with thousands of others…it does feel special. Special to be right where I belong – at home. Even if only once in 5 years.
*All the photos are from internet this time, not mine*
Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit. /J.Nehru/
The Latvian Song and Dance Festival has been held every five years and it’ s coming this summer again
When the Rose Valley in Bulgaria is all in blossoms, it’ s time for the Rose Festival
guitarrón and tequila
mariachi’ s broken heart
only wind listens
drunk snob demands cucaracha
joy can’t be bought
Guadalajara’ s brass sunrise
old mariachi drifts
Image courtesy of Onigun Studio