History

A small movie about Latvian history

Latvia until the 13th Century

The first human settlements appeared on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea after the Ice Age. At the end of the 3rd millennium BC a group of tribes began to arrive in this territory. According to historians, these were the ancient Balts.

As centuries passed, the ancient Baltic tribes formed into the ancient peoples of Kurs, Latgalians, Selonians, and Semigallians who inhabited areas that coincide with the territory of today’s Latvia.

 

At the beginning of the 13th century the territory of today’s Latvia did not have one common name and depending on the ancient people who inhabited the territory it was known under different names, for example, Letgale (the land of Latgalians — Lettigallia, Lettia, Letthia, Leththia).

 

 

 

Around the 9th century towns started to form, arable and livestock farming dominated in agriculture. In the middle of the 12th century German merchants together with merchants from Gotland learned the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks via the Daugava River, which connected the area of Riga and the Kievan Rus.

In 1201 the future Bishop Albert founded the town of Riga amid several villages inhabited by Livs and Kurs.

In 1220s with the help of crusaders the territory of today’s Latvia (except for Semigallia and Courland) was annexed to Livonia although violent battles continued between the Baltic peoples and the knights for several decades after that. The Kurs also gave up in 1267. Around 1272 the tribes of Semigallians surrendered as well. Thus in the course of the 13th century all tribes that inhabited the territory of the present-day Latvia were placed under the command of invaders. During the following centuries Germans acquired more and more privileges, but the indigenous people lost almost all political rights.

The Legend about Riga

 

Many tales are told about our dear old Riga, and here is one of them: Riga can never be complete, otherwise it would go under the waters of the Daugava River. Every hundred years a spirit rises from the Daugava and asks the first person it meets whether Riga is complete. If the person addressed replied that Riga was complete, he or she would have to die on the next night, but on the third night the entire Riga would go under water. However, since all inhabitants of Riga know the legend, they always tell the spirit that Riga is not complete, therefore it still stands.

Medieval Castles in Latvia

 

 

The construction of Riga Castle began in 1330. From the moment of laying the foundation stone until 1562 the castle belonged to the Livonian Order and was the seat of Livonia’s rulers. In the following centuries as the feudal states in Livonia ceased to exist the castle was inhabited by Polish, Swedish, and Russian rulers.

Ventspils Castle is a castle built by the Livonian Order near the Venta River, and it served as the residence of Commanders of Ventspils Commandry (around 1290-1562). It is the only castle of the Livonian Order in Kurzeme that has been preserved until the present day.

Dundaga Castle is a medieval castle in Dundaga built by Riga Cathedral Chapter at the end of the 13th century. Later the castle came into possession of the Bishopric of Courland and the Polish kings. In the 17th century it was reconstructed into Dundaga Manor and used as a residence for noblemen.

Ēdole Castle is a medieval castle in Ēdole and the only castle of the Bishopric of Courland which is still in working order. The construction of the castle began in 1264.

 

Koknese Castle was a stone castle built in the Middle Ages on Koknese hillfort in Koknese on the bank of the Daugava River. It was built shortly after 1209 on an important trade route, on the right bank of the Daugava, and was at the time one of the largest and best fortified castles.

Latvia in the 13th-16th Century

Medieval Livonia encompassed the territory of Latvia and Estonia. It was basically a confederation of five feudal principalities (the Livonian Order, the Archbishopric of Riga and the Bishopric of Courland in the territory of the present-day Latvia, as well as the Bishopric of Dorpat and the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek in the territory of the present-day Estonia) and existed from 1228 to 1560.

 

According to the feudal system of the medieval Europe, Medieval Livonia was a vassal state of the Holy Roman Empire , but also directly subordinated to the Pope. At the time of Medieval Livonia a deep economic, political and cultural division existed between the privileged German knights, craftsmen, and Latvian peasants, and it never grew smaller. Latvian peasants were forbidden to carry weapons, and even bagpipes were prohibited.

 

The first book in Latvian was published in 1525. The first Latvian schools appeared around the middle of the 16th century. Before that Latvian children could acquire education in German or Latin only. Regardless of the aforementioned class differences, Livonia experienced economic growth — trade expanded and towns developed. Livonian towns largely resembled the towns in the Northern Germany.

In the 15th century the number of German manors increased rapidly. German noblemen started using Latvian peasants as a free workforce in their manors in the 15th and 16th century.

The success of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the Livonian War (15581583) lead to acquisition of the greatest part of the territory of Medieval Livonia by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and gave rise to its vassal states — the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia and the Duchy of Livonia.

 

Latvia during the 17th-19th Century

After the Polish-Swedish War (1600-1629) the majority of the Duchy of Livonia, including Riga, came under the rule of Sweden. At the same time, from 1642 to 1682 the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was ruled by the Duke Jacob Kettler, under whose rule the Duchy’s economy prospered. During this period the duchy also acquired two colonies — St. Andrews Island on the Gambia River and Tobago.

As a result of the Great Northern War (1700-1721) Swedish Livonia came under the rule of the Russian Empire. The Eastern part of Latvia (Latgale) became a part of the Russian Empire as a consequence of the Second Partition of Poland in 1772. In 1795 the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia with the Piltene District was incorporated into the Russian Empire.

 

From 1804 onwards several decrees weakened the authority the German nobility had over Latvian peasants. In the 19th century serfdom was abolished. In 1849 a law was passed allowing peasants to become owners of their farms. Until World War I the administrative authorities of the Russian Empire and the local authorities — Livonian Landtag and Landtag for Courland (parliaments) that represented only the German nobility — held all the decision-making power in Latvia.

Significant changes gradually took place in the Latvian society, paving the way for the creation of a national state. The number of educated Latvians increased. A number of educated Latvians (Juris Alunāns, Krišjānis Barons, Atis Kronvalds, Krišjānis Valdemārs) founded the movement of New Latvians to promote literacy among Latvians. One of the first centres of the movement was the University of Dorpat (now Tartu, Estonia) where many Latvians studied at the time.

 

 

In the 19th century Riga was developing into an important industrial centre. At the end of the 19th century Riga was the largest industrial city based on the number of workers after Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In the 1870s and 1880s the number of people migrating from rural areas to towns increased. Therefore the proportion and role of intellectuals and workers in the society increased. At the end of the 1880s and during the 1890s the movement of New Latvians was replaced by a new movement — the New Current. Unlike the New Latvians, participants of the New Current started to express national ideas about Latvia.

Latvia in the 20th and 21st Century

Latvia was also drawn into the Russian Revolution of 1905 when manors and castles of the German nobility were burned. The revolution was suppressed and as a result the idea of the Latvian national identity was halted for a while.

On 1 August 1914 World War I reached the territory of Latvia. During the war factory facilities were brought out from Latvia, thousands of the inhabitants of Latvia left for Russia as refugees.

World War I seriously weakened countries that had decided the fate of Europe for several centuries — Germany, France, Russia. The Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed completely. This created a political power vacuum in the Central and Eastern Europe.

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk concluded on 3 March 1918 was important for the creation of the Latvian state, because as a result of the treaty Russia renounced its territorial claims over the territories of Vidzeme and Kurzeme. On 9 November 1918 the German Empire ceased to exist and on 11 November a truce was declared between Germany and the Triple Entente. On the same day the United Kingdom recognised the Latvian Provisional National Council as a de facto independent structure and Z. A. Meierovics as an unofficial diplomatic representative of the Provisional Government of Latvia.

The proclamation of the state of Latvia took place on 18 November 1918 after Gustavs Zemgals, Deputy Co-Chairman of the People’s Council of Latvia, had proclaimed the acquisition of sovereignty over Latvia on the previous day. The Latvian Provisional Government headed by K. Ulmanis was created simultaneously with the proclamation of independence of Latvia on 18 November 1918, however, the German occupation administration still held the actual power due to the conviction that the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, based on which Russia had renounced its territorial claims in the lands along the shores of the Baltic Sea in favour of Germany, was still in force.

The People’s Council of Latvia, who regarded themselves as the sole supreme authority in the state of Latvia, declared that “Latvia, unified in its ethnographic boundaries (Kurzeme, Vidzeme, Latgale), is a separate, independent, democratic state, a republic, the Constitution and relations with other countries of which will be determined in the near future by the Constitutional Assembly of Latvia voted in universal, equal, direct and proportional elections by secret ballot”. “Dievs, svētī Latviju!” (God, Bless Latvia!) was played for the first time as the national anthem of Latvia.

The People’s Council of Latvia was a provisional legislative body that existed until the first democratic election of the parliament.

Soon after the defeat of Germany in World War I the Russian Red Army started the invasion of Latvia. This marked the beginning of the Latvian War of Independence on 1 December. Since the Government of Latvia had not had any time to create armed forces that would be ready for combat, the Soviet army quickly took over almost the entire territory of Latvia. In December 1918, with a support from the Soviet Russia, the Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic was formed in Latvia, with the government headed by P. Stučka.

At the beginning of March 1919 Latvian armed forces launched a counter-attack against the forces of the LSSR and captured Riga on 22 May. After hard battles Latvians beat Germans and forced them into retreat in the direction of Riga. The Ceasefire of Strazdumuiža was signed, according to which the German army had to leave the territory of Latvia. Until the end of January 1920 the army of the Republic of Latvia succeeded also in driving the Soviet forces out of Latgale and thus ending the Latvian War of Independence.

 

On 11 August 1920 the Latvian–Soviet Peace Treaty was signed between the Republic of Latvia and the Soviet Russia. According to its Article 2, “Russia recognises the Latvian state as a separate, independent and sovereign state, and voluntarily and forever renounces all sovereign rights Russia had over Latvian people and land…”.

One of the first tasks the new state had to complete was the redistribution of the feudal lands to landless peasants, thus the parliament initiated the agrarian reform as soon as in 1920. Manors were left with only 50 hectares of land, the rest was alienated and redistributed among landless peasants free of charge. In 1922 the Saeima (parliament) gathered for its first session.

On 15 May 1934 the Prime Minister Kārlis Ulmanis dissolved all political parties and the parliament and in fact established authoritarian rule in the country. In 1936 K. Ulmanis assumed office of the state president and continued to exercise the powers of the head of the government, a move considered unconstitutional.

 

 

On 28 March 1939 Latvia received a message from the USSR about a possible use of military force should Latvia draw closer to Germany in its foreign relations. K. Ulmanis failed to take decisive actions to protect the independent Latvian state. In October 1939 the Soviet–Latvian Mutual Assistance Treaty was signed, which allowed the Soviet troops to establish numerous military bases in the territory of Latvia. They were mostly located along the Western coast of Kurzeme to block any assistance to Latvia. Any resistance in such an isolated position would have been rather suicidal. After receiving an ultimatum from the government of the USSR in June 1940 K. Ulmanis chose to give in.

During the next couple of months Latvia completely lost its independence and was incorporated into the USSR as the LSSR. On 17 June 1940 the troops of the Soviet Union entered the territory of Latvia according to provisions contained in the secret protocols of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Thus the USSR had breached the provisions of international agreements signed between the USSR and Latvia, including the Latvian–Soviet Peace Treaty of 1920 and the Latvian–Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1932.

A few days later, on 20 June, under the dictate of the USSR a Soviet government headed by Augusts Kirhenšteins was formed. On 14 and 15 July 1940 the election of the so-called People’s Parliament took place. Only the Working People’s Bloc created by the authorities was allowed to participate in the election. On 5 August 1940, during the session of the USSR Supreme Council in Moscow, the “request” of the People’s Parliament of Latvia delegation to admit Latvia into the “family of nations of the Soviet Union” was formally fulfilled.

The Soviet authorities began a large-scale terror campaign even before the incorporation of Latvia into the USSR. Many Latvian intellectuals were arrested, interrogated, and deported to Russia. A large-scale deportation took place on 14 June 1941, when over 15,000 Latvian citizens were deported to the eastern regions of Russia.

Within several months the economic crisis intensified. An agrarian reform was launched — the land was redistributed to landless peasants and small land owners.

On 22 June 1941 World War II started in Latvia with Luftwaffe attacks on Latvian towns. German troops completed the occupation of Latvia on 8 June. The Third Reich established its own administration in the invaded territories. Creation of ghettoes, concentration camps and the prison system began. Jewish Latvian citizens, who had lived here for many centuries, were almost completely destroyed.

Soon after the surrender of Germany on 9 May 1945 the entire territory of Latvia came under the control of the USSR. Immediately after the war administrative and territorial changes were introduced in Latvia, adapting it to the system used in the USSR and creating Selsoviets or rural councils that replaced parishes and regions that replaced districts. Peasants were forced to join kolkhozes (collective farms). All spheres of life were subject to the dictate of the Communist Party of Latvia, and its highest authority according to the principle of the “democratic centralism” was concentrated in the highest authority — the Central Committee (CC of CPL). However, its powers were also limited — the most important decisions were made by the functionaries of the CPSU Central Committee in Moscow, the Politburo of the Central Committee of CPSU.

Immediately after the war and in the following years the Soviet regime implemented massive repressions. During the deportations of March 1949 42,133 inhabitants of Latvia were deported to Siberia. According to the estimates of various experts, the total number of inhabitants of Latvia who were victims of political repressions of the Soviet regime from 1940 to 1953 could have been between 140,000 and 190,000, or even up to 240,000.

 

Centrally planned economy was introduced based on centralised five-year plans that were divided into compulsory annual plans. The USSR and the local government encouraged massive influx of workforce from other republics, especially from Russia and Belarus. Immigrants were given priority when providing accommodation. In the 1960s celebration of Jāņi, Latvian summer solstice, was forbidden. It was also forbidden to celebrate Christmas. Functionaries in Moscow did not trust the local population, exercised strict control, and limited their possibilities to take higher positions in the government or higher positions related to economic affairs. Leading positions were given to Russians or Russian Latvians who were partially russified.

In the second half of the 1980s a number of circumstances and events in the USSR and Latvia facilitated the restoration of independence of Latvia. It started with the reforms introduced by M. Gorbachev after he took office of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in April 1985.

Formerly forbidden events in Latvia took place one after the other. The Human Rights Defense Group Helsinki-86 was established in 1986. This group organised a flower laying event at the base of the Freedom Monument on 14 June 1987, the anniversary of the deportations of 1941. On 23 August of the same year, the anniversary of signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the group organised a protest demonstration against the pact at the Freedom Monument. Public celebration of Jāņi was soon allowed.

On 23 August 1989, 50 years after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a peaceful political demonstration, the Baltic Way, was organised by the Popular Front of Latvia, the Popular Front of Estonia, and the Sąjūdis movement in Lithuania. Approximately two million people joined their hands to form a human chain spanning almost 600 kilometres and connecting the capitals of the three Baltic states.

The Supreme Council elected in the parliamentary elections of March and April 1990 already had two groups of political parties. One of them advocated the independence of Latvia and market reforms and was centred around the faction of the Popular Front of Latvia (134 members out of 201), the second group was led by the Equal Rights faction (57 members) and defended socialism and membership in the USSR.

On 4 May 1990, during the first session of the Supreme Council, the vote was held on the adoption of the Declaration “On the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia” proposed by the Popular Front of Latvia faction. A majority of two thirds or 132 votes was required for the legislators to support the declaration. 138 members voted for the adoption of the declaration, one abstained, and the declaration was adopted. Although the adoption of the declaration did not mean yet that the Republic of Latvia was an independent state, it was the first step to the restoration of an independent state.

On 7 May 1990, a few days after the adoption of the Declaration “On the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia”, the Supreme Council elected one of the leaders of the Popular Front of Latvia, Ivars Godmanis, prime minister and tasked him with forming the government. Due to the continuing economic dependence on the USSR, the general economic situation in the Republic of Latvia continued to worsen and the standard of living also decreased.

In the second half of the1990s economic reforms were initiated in Latvia. Among the first measures of strategic reforms was the agrarian reform launched by the decision of the Supreme Council of Latvian SSR “On the Agrarian Reform in the Republic of Latvia”. Soon afterwards the Supreme Council made the decision to found an independent Bank of Latvia, but on 3 August 1990 the decision was made to adopt the national economic development programme. However, until the spring of 1992, while the ruble was still in use, inflation in the country remained very high.

In January 1991 an attempt was made using military force to restore the Soviet authority in the Baltic states that had declared independence. On 20 January the building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs was taken. Two police officers fell protecting it, several employees of the ministry were wounded, two cinema operators and a bystander lost their lives too.

The last attempt of the USSR to subjugate Latvia by military force took place during the 1991 Soviet coup d’état attempt in Moscow. Armoured vehicles of the Soviet Army patrolled the streets of Riga, but on 21 August the Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia adopted the Constitutional Law of the Republic of Latvia on the Statehood of the Republic of Latvia that restored the 1920 Constitution of the Republic of Latvia in its entirety.

On 22 August 1991 the Government of Iceland recognised the restoration of the independence of Latvia, but on 24 August Denmark officially announced its intention to restore diplomatic relations with Latvia. On 27 August the member states of the European Communities adopted the Declaration on the Baltic States, highlighting the fact that the member states of the EC consistently regard the democratically elected parliament of Latvia as well as its government as the lawful representation of the people of Latvia. On 24 August Russia signed the Decree “On the Recognition of Independence of the Republic of Latvia”, on 2 September the USA announced its readiness to restore diplomatic relations with Latvia. On 17 September Latvia became a full-fledged member of the United Nations.

The continuation of economic and structural reforms encouraged stable economic development of Latvia from the second half of the 1990s. From 2000 the EU accession process played an important part in the economic development of Latvia. The first negotiations on the EU accession began on 28 March 2000.

 

On 20 September 2003 a referendum on the European Union membership was held in Latvia. 71.5 % of the electorate took part in the referendum; 67.0 % voted for, 32.3 % — against. On 29 March 2004 Latvia joined the NATO and on 1 May 2004 became a member state of the European Union. The final decision about including Latvia in the euro area was made by the EU on 9 July 2013. On 1 January 2014 the introduction procedure of euro was implemented in line with a plan adopted earlier by the Government of Latvia.

http://www.lsm.lv/raksts/dzive–stils/vesture/arhivu-kadri-neatkaribas-atjaunosana-1990.-gada-4.-maija.a127489/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1YuCDbMMnk

Public Holidays

1 January — New Year’s Day

Ancient Latvian traditions of welcoming the New Year are similar to Christmas traditions. Abundant feasts were prepared, with such traditional dishes as pig snout, fish, bacon rolls, porridge, and beer. And bread, of course. Bread had to be on the table as a symbol of prosperity. People wore masks and went from home to home (Latvian: ķekatas), played games, told fortune, and had fun. Fish scales were placed in the wallet so that its owner would not be short of money in the New Year.

Easter

Good Friday

Good Friday is a religious Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Golgotha. Good Friday is part of the Holy Week which lasts from Palm Sunday until the last Saturday before Easter. On Good Friday there is no Eucharist in churches, bread and wine is passed out, pipe organs are not played, and no bells are rung. On this day Catholics all over the world walk the 14 Stations of the Cross, which symbolises the walk of Jesus Christ to his death. Good Friday is a day of fasting and silence. In Latvia Good Friday is an official holiday.

Easter Sunday and Easter Monday

An age-old Easter tradition is swatting with pussy willows or birch branches soaked in hot water while saying “round as a catkin, lithe as a branch” or “health in, sickness out”. Eggs are dyed by mainly using natural colours. There are some popular beliefs that concern eating eggs as well: some misfortune will befall a person who eats an odd number of eggs. A person who eats eggs without salt will tell lies the whole year. Trouble and disagreement will prevail in a house where eggs shells are not protected and are crushed underfoot.

At Easter one must participate in egg tapping, and the person whose egg stays intact longer will live longer. On Easter Sunday eggs are cracked together with their narrower, pointy ends, on Easter Monday — with the rounded, blunt ends. One should take a good turn on the swing to avoid horseflies, mosquitoes, and snakes in summer. Exchanging eggs and giving them as gifts has a deeper meaning at Easter — it should be done as a sign of benevolence and to induce friendly feelings in others.

4 May — the Day of Declaration of the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia

Every year there is a wide and diverse programme of celebration of the restoration of independence of the Republic of Latvia. Ecumenical services are held, the flag-raising ceremony takes place at Riga Castle. Senior public officials participate in the celebration. On this day the highest awards of the state are presented. In the course of the entire day various festive concerts take place, wider celebration takes place at 11. novembra krastmala.

Mother’s Day

This holiday is celebrated on the second Sunday of May, therefore the date changes every year.

Mother’s Day was introduced as a public holiday in Latvia in 1922. In 1938, based on the proposal of the President of Latvia Kārlis Ulmanis, it was renamed Family Day, since family begins with a mother. Mother’s Day celebration included various social activities, charity campaigns and fund raising, children’s mornings, and cultural events for families. Usually children give presents to their mothers on this day. It was also emphasised to remember the mothers who had passed away by taking care of their graves.

23 June — Līgo Day, 24 June — Jāņi

Jāņi or Līgo is a traditional Latvian festival that marks the summer solstice — the shortest night and the longest day of the year. Although the solstice usually falls on 21 or 22 June, the public holidays — Līgo Day and Jāņi Day — are celebrated on 23 and 24 June. The day before Jāņi is known as Zāļu Day or Līgo Day. One of the most important Jāņi traditions is wreath making. Women wear wreaths made of flowers, men wear wreaths made of oak leaves. Singing Līgo songs is often associated with the fertility cult and prevention of misfortune. The practice of burning bonfires from sunset until sunrise at Jāņi reflects the belief that light from the fire will transmit to the next solar year. The bonfire should be made at the highest point in the area. Wreaths from the last year are also burned. One should stay awake through the entire night. An integral part of Jāņi Day is singing Jāņi songs, which is associated with the promotion of fertility and prevention of misfortune. On Jāņi Day people drink beer and make and eat Jāņi cheese, believing that it will promote the growth of crops and production of milk by cows in the next summer.

18 November — Proclamation Day of the Republic of Latvia

Proclamation Day of the Republic of Latvia is celebrated annually on 18 November. It marks the anniversary of the proclamation of independence of Latvia. It is a public holiday. Various cultural events take place all over the country, including concerts, balls, shows, and exhibitions. In Riga the celebration traditionally includes the flower laying ceremony at the base of the Freedom Monument attended by the president and other senior public officials, the military parade of Latvian National Armed Forces at 11. novembra krastmala, a torchlight procession through the streets of the city, and fireworks over the Daugava River.

24 December — Christmas Eve

25 December — Christmas Day, 26 December — Second Day of Christmas 

Christmas Eve is celebrated on the day before Christmas Day. In Western Christianity and in the secular world it is celebrated on 24 December. Christmas is a holiday and is also celebrated by people who are not Christians by faith.

Much like ancient Latvians, modern Latvians try to finish major tasks at work and at home, because Christmas is a holiday one must celebrate instead of working through it.

Since the tradition holds that Jesus Christ was born at night, Midnight Mass is held on Christmas Eve, traditionally at midnight, in commemoration of his birth. Various cultural traditions are also associated with Christmas Eve, including singing Christmas songs, decorating and illuminating Christmas trees, wrapping and/or opening gifts, and general preparation for Christmas Day. The story of Father Christmas, who delivers presents to children around the world on Christmas Eve, is also popular.

Often a person is asked to recite a poem or sing a song in exchange for the gift.

A feast is an integral part of the Christmas Eve celebration. However, festive meals are often enjoyed on Christmas Day and on the Second Day of Christmas as well.

Most people observe ancient Latvian traditions nowadays when preparing the feast. They try to put at least nine different dishes on the table to promote prosperity the next year. According to the traditions of ancient Latvians, the feast consisted of grey peas and beans, bacon buns, carrots and beetroot, gingerbread cookies, round cookies, stewed cabbage, poultry, fish, pork or pig snout. The emphasis was laid on round dishes that symbolise the core element of the winter solstice — the sun. Bread, salt and fire had to be on the table as they bring blessing. Since children are eager to meet Farther Christmas as they still believe in his existence and in wonders, unlike adults, they write letters to Farther Christmas in advance to tell him what gifts they would like to receive for Christmas. Such letters help parents to find out what their offspring would like to receive for Christmas. Of course, children are told that the letter is mailed to Farther Christmas personally, who, as Latvian children believe, lives in Ziemupe, or in Lapland, at the North Pole, as children elsewhere in the world believe, but in any case Farther Christmas, as it befits, lives in a cold place where it snows.

Christmas time is a time to visit relatives and friends — people welcome guests and visit others. Usually guests are received on Christmas Day and on the Second Day of Christmas, but Christmas Eve is spent with one’s dearest people, while it can also be the other way round. Nowadays Christmas holidays last three days that can be used for festive visits.

31 December — New Year’s Eve

 The celebration of the New Year usually starts on 31 December, known as New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Eve a rich feast is enjoyed to symbolically promote wealth and prosperity in the next year. Until midnight, the actual turn of the year, time is spent in various activities — most often the last hours of the Old Year are spent with one’s dearest and closest people, however, one can also attend various events to celebrate the New Year. On New Year’s Eve people often perform various rituals and try to tell fortune, for example, they write New Year’s resolutions, because they believe in the power of the written word, bake buns with various filling (salt, sugar, coins) or try to divine their future in the New Year by dropping molten tin into water and then reading the shapes. It should be noted that divination using molten metal is also practised after the midnight when the New Year has arrived.

 

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