COMENIUS MULTILATERAL PARTNERSHIPS Christmas in Latvia Prepared by M.Kalēja, A.Zikmane Christmas is an important family celebration for Latvians. Many Latvians attend-Midnight Mass church services,decorate Christmas trees and exchange gifts on Christmas Eve - December 24. Christmas Eve is the most important moment! Celebrations continue on Christmas Day and the day after. Christian churches celebrated Christ child's birth celebration is gradually mixed with the Latvian ancient winter solstice celebrations, and now it’s no longer celebrated at the right, astronomical solstice day - 22 December - but on the 24th December. For many Latvians this time of the year is also associated with pre-Christian traditions and rituals reflected in ancient folk songs and observed in a variety of colourful ways. The winter solstice was celebrated when the night was longest and the day shortest, when the intensity of field work was lowest, but people gathered for evening bees to do textile and other handwork, to spin fairytales and other stories, to guess riddles, sing and dance. In the Christian tradition Christmas is the birth of God's son, but in traditional Latvian culture it is the rebirth of the Sun maiden. During Christmas rooms are decorated with three-dimensional straw or reed ornaments that are known as lukturi, puzuri, and so on. Traditional decoration - "puzurs" is not only beautiful, but also energetically very powerful, it perfectly cleans the space from unwanted energies. If on thread suspended "puzurs" rotates by itself, it means that it works. Puzurs is a collection of many small pyramids, and as it larger, the stronger is energy. The best known Christmas tradition is mumming .The mummers are costumed and in different masks. The most common traditional masks are bears, horses, cranes, wolfs, goats, tall women, small men, death, fortune-tellers. Led by a "father", the mummers travel from homestead to homestead or from village to village. The mummers bring a home blessing, encourage fertility, and frighten away any evil spirits. Another Christmas tradition is dragging the Yule log. This is explained as the symbolic collecting and burning of last year's problems and misfortunes. The Yule log was either dragged by the people of one farmstead or several neighbours together. This was accompanied by songs, singing games, and various sounding instruments. An important part of Christmas is also rich feast, the year ended and have been harvested. On the Christmas table had to be pig snouts, peas, beans, sausages, pies and other delicious things. Each dish had its own symbolic meaning Eat peas - one day cry, Eat beans - one day grow weight, Eats snout - will be large writing, Eat a round cake - expected a lot of sunny days. On the Christmas table had to be peas and beans order to be lot of money. They were definitely to eat, to next year would not cry. Nowdays people bake gingerbread cookies and pies and prepare a variety of savoury and sweet treats. Children in Latvia believe that Santa Claus (also known as Ziemassvētku vecītis - Christmas old man) brings their presents. The present are usually put under the Christmas tree. The presents are opened on during the Evening of Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day. Often the presents are secretly put under tree when people are not around (such as when people are at Church). Sometimes to get a present you have to recite a short poem while standing next to the Christmas Tree! Before Christmas children learn to say poems by heart. You might also get a present by singing, playing a musicical instrument or doing a dance! Some Old Christmas Beliefs • On Christmas Eve you have to eat 9 different foods at one sitting then next year will be a wealthy year. • In order not to run out of money in the New Year then you mustn’t spend all your money at Christmas. • On Christmas Eve must run barefoot around the house three times, so not hurt teeth • On Christmas Eve all candles should burn for Happiness see where to walk. • On Christmas Eve keep the bread, salt and fire on the table, then the next year will be a boon. • On the Christmas table had to be peas and beans - order to be lot of money. They were definitely to eat, to next year would not cry. The first documented use of a tree at Christmas and New Year celebrations is in town square of Riga, the capital of Latvia, in the year 1510. In the square there is a plaque which is engraved with "The First New Years Tree in Riga in 1510", in eight languages. The tree might have been a 'Paradise Tree' rather than a 'real' tree. Not much is known about the tree, apart from that it was attended by men wearing black hats, and that after a ceremony they burnt the tree. This is like the custom of the Yule Log. You can find out more about the Riga Tree from this great website: www.firstchristmastree.com THANK YOU!