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Folk Festival

Folklore and ancient traditions are held in high esteem in Latvia. Any tourist who experiences a Latvian folklore celebration and see performances by folk groups will be left with many vivid memories.

People who are folklore fanatics participate in events wholeheartedly and with great enthusiasm. These people don't participate simply to get their groups on stage; they participate because it's an integral part of their identities. It's truly fascinating. In turn, tourists big on photography and who like to capture moments of the diverse cultures they come across, folklore events are one of a kind. It's even fun to just listen – captivating songs and the happy murmur of voices in the cafes or event tents that gather event participants and audience members alike.

Folklorists are usually interesting individuals with a lot of soul. They have a harmonious outlook on life and extensive knowledge of traditions and history of their people. Just by taking to them it's possible to end up with a whole new and beautiful perspective on life. The largest international folklore festival in the Baltics is “Baltica”, which takes place every three years and on rotation – it is held in Latvia every three years. The last festival took place in 2009 and the next will be held in 2012. Folk ensembles also participate in Song and Dance Celebrations, as well as in smaller folklore festivals in a few cities across Latvia and even in a few regions.

Every year on the third Saturday of October, a traditional language and folklore celebration is held at the Māriņkalns Culture Hall in Ziemeru Parish, Alūksne Region. There are similar events in many other parishes where folk ensembles are active. Another popular event is the children's folklore festival “Pulkā eimu, pulkā teku”, which takes place all around Latvia.

Interesting impressions are left by the “Baltijas saule” (Baltic Sun) festival, where visitors can see ancient Sun Battle reenactments, complete with authentic armour and sword fights, and listen to folk rock. The festival is dedicated to the remembrance of the Sun Battle, the autumn sun deities and the unity of the Baltics. The festival takes place in Riga on Zaķusala Island and always gathers many youths, folklorists, history enthusiasts and ancient battle interest groups

The Zemgale Celebration starts in Tērvete on the second Saturday of August. The area is built up with an ancient-style settlement, where folk ensembles and battle interest groups from around Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, Russia and Finland demonstrate how people lived in the 9th-13th centuries, as well as the battles between the Zemgalians and the Crusaders. The two-day festival gives visitors a chance to meet various history enthusiasts and groups, as well as try out ancient crafts and view enactments of ancient sword fights and view reenactments of ancient sword fights.

The Zemgale Celebration takes places in the Tērvete Nature Park, which has been awarded the prestigious European tourism destination EDEN award. The park has received wonderful reviews from foreign visitors.

It is also possible to experience celebrations and folklore during Latvia’s traditional celebrations, such as Jāņi (Midsummer’s Eve), which is celebrated in Latvia on 23 June. Jāņi pre-celebrations start a week before the official date, as folk ensembles participate in events in larger cities, smaller parishes and even in shopping centres. For the most traditional Jāņi experience, the holiday should be celebrated in the company of a folk ensemble.

For the most traditional experience of the ancient Russian celebration of Masļeņica, the best option is to celebrate it with the Riga folk ensemble “Iļjinskaja pjatņica”. The ensemble has been assimilated into the Latvian folklore scene, but without loosing its identity; at Christmas, the ensemble participates in the traditional yuletide log-dragging ceremony around Old Riga.

There are many dievturi (neo-pagans) among folklorists, who are followers of Latvia’s historically ethnographic religion. Folklorists and dievturi maintain and try to restore a fuller understanding of the god who, in comparison to Christianity, is not based on fear of the wrath of god, but is rather based on God as a loving, omnipotent force. There is, however, a fair share of Christians among folklorists – especially in south-eastern Latvia, where Latgale has seen a harmonious blend of the ancient concept of god with Catholic traditions.

Interesting folklore traditions have even developed in the Catholic Suita region in the western part of Kurzeme. One of the oldest Latvian folk ensembles, Suitu sievas (Suita Women), which has been performing since 1924. The ensemble is famous not only for its ancient, burdonis (rambling) songs, but also for the clever, teasing lyrics and their sharp and witty language. Their folk costumes are colourful and are topped with a charictaristically large brooch (up to 15 cm in diameter) and socks ornamented with daringly vibrant patterns. The first international Burdonis Festival took place in Alsunga in 2004; this year will be the festival's third year. The scientific term for the style of singing by the Suita women is called burdonis. Burdonis is one of the oldest forms of traditional music (both vocal and instrumental) and which cannot be learned using notes. Its roots go back before the period Christianity entered the culture and is still very much alive in the Baltics, the Balkans, the Carpathians, Georgia and on the Pyrenees Peninsula.

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